If Life Gives You Lemons…

Posted by on Dec 5, 2011 in Musings | 0 comments

I fell in love with preserved lemons a long time ago. Their salty, uber-lemon flavor zings up anything you add them to. And they are ridiculously easy to make. Lemons. Salt. A clean jar. Time in a cool, dark place. But, I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t make my first batch until just last winter.

Two things spurred me into action. One, my Meyer lemon tree had so much fruit on it, it was bending dangerously low to the ground. I could hardly see the leaves for the bright yellow lemons. I harvested 3 large grocery bags full and still left a few hanging on the tree. After making lemon bars, lemon curd, lemon cakes and squeezing several quarts of juice, I still had a mother lode of them.

Secondly, I was reading Mark Bitterman‘s book, Salted, at the time and came to his recipe for Preserved Lemons. I figured it was time. I made 4 large jars of them and ended up using them all summer and fall in almost everything I cooked. I couldn’t help it – they’re addictive.

I added the diced or slivered cleaned, preserved lemon peel to dishes where I was already using fresh lemon juice. Vinaigrettes. Salsas. Flavored butters. Crab salad, chicken salad, tomato salad. Pork dishes. Fish dishes. Sauteed mushrooms. Vegetables. Sauces. Savory relishes for grilled meats.

The intense salty-lemon flavor made everything taste brighter and zippier. And, for the wine-friendly kitchen, they are a great way to add a salty taste to a dish that already has the bright acidity of lemon juice.

I am now down to 1 lemon from last year’s batch. The panic of running out of my new favorite ingredient spurred me outside to harvest this year’s much tinier crop of Meyer lemons and get a couple of jars going. I’m now reading Mourad Lahlou‘s new book Mourad New Moroccan. Check out the chapter Dude, Preserved Lemons. I thought I used these lemons wantonly – I’m an amateur.

A very basic method for about a quart:
6-8 large lemons, plus more for juicing
1 – 1 1/2 cups kosher salt

Sterilize a large, wide-mouth, quart-size glass jar. Cut the stem end off the lemons. Cut them as if to quarter them lengthwise, but don’t cut them all the way through. Place the lemons in a shallow dish and fill the centers with kosher salt. Place a thin layer of salt in the bottom of the jar, then start to pack the lemons into the jar, sprinkling salt between the layers and pressing to get all the lemons in the jar. Fill in any spaces with more salt, then add enough lemon juice to cover the lemons. Seal. Shake several times to dissolve the salt into the lemon juice. Put in a cool, dark place for 1 month, shaking the jars each day to dissolve and distribute the salt. After 1 month, refrigerate for up to 6 months, or longer.
To use just the peel: Scrape the insides of the lemon and the pith from the peel and dice or sliver before adding to a dish.


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