Wednesday, December 9, 2009

preserved lemons

Meyers lemons only come around once a year, and at the farmers market they call to me so seductively. They're sweet and floral and so yummy - but when I end up with dozens, what am I to do? (though I dreamily do fantasize about the day when I have my own home with my own fruit orchard with at least a couple lemon trees)

First I juice a bunch and freeze in ice cube trays (each cube is about 2 T) - I'm very happy to have fresh-tasting lemon juice throughout the year.

I take the peels of these lemons and freeze them. My thinking is that I could just zest them as needed since they're frozen basically intact. I haven't tried it yet, but it's a to-do and I think it would work fine.

But the OTHER THING - and the purpose of this post - is PRESERVED LEMONS.

Last year I did some internet searching when my lemons were starting to turn and I learned for the first time of these. They're used heavily in Moroccan and Algerian cooking, and so I was game. I made a quart which I have very happily used throughout the year. They taste, I'm told, like capers - however, I really don't like capers but I really liked preserved lemons, so there's a limitation to that theory. But they are pickled and not sweet or sour, and taste extremely different than when fresh.

I got advice from several sources, including here. I just made some more today - two pints, and in the second pint I added a bay leaf, a few cardamom pods, a few pepper corns, a cinnamon stick, and a couple cloves. I thought it would be a fun try but I didn't want a full quart of the seasoned ones.

Wash some lemons thoroughly (organic is best!). I needed about 3 1/2 lemons for pints and about 8 for a quart - depending on the size.

Put 2 T kosher or sea salt in the bottom of a sterilized jar.

Cut the lemon as if you were going to cut in half through the top, but stop before you actually cut through. Then do the same so it is almost quartered but still attached at the bottom.

Salt heavily inside and outside the lemon.

Squeeze it into the jar - you want juice to come out. (You do NOT, however, want to lemon juice to shoot up all through your kitchen as though a blue whale's blow hole is in your lemons. You know, like I did today. Twice.)

Fill the jar, cramming them in tight, making sure there's lemon juice covering the top (either from these lemons or from extra juice).

I like to cap with the plastic lids Ball makes - the metal will corrode.

Leave the jar out for a few days and turn it upside down every so often. More juice should come from the lemons, but if the lemons aren't covered you can add more juice.

The texture and appearance of the rind will start to change - it's pickling - and after a few days you can put in the fridge. I'm told to not use for a few weeks to allow the process to complete.

It should be fine to keep the jars in the fridge for a year or so - I just make sure there's always lemon juice covering the lemons.


I use in recipes calling for them (I'll post some later). Take a lemon out, or use just a half, and remove the pulp. Rinse off the salt and then chop it very finely and add in. I think I read somewhere it can get bitter if cooked a long time, so I add near the end.

Preserved lemons have such a unique flavor and couldn't be substituted with anything else - and since I'm a fan of northern African cuisine, they've been a great discovery for me!

No comments:

Post a Comment