12 April 2008
Many Moroccan and Middle Eastern recipes call for preserved lemons. These are lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juices. It is quite easy to do but does take about 3 weeks to a month before they are ready to be used. As the old adage goes, "Good things come to those who wait."
All over the blogosphere people are singing the praises of the Meyer Lemon. Living in the "Great White North" I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to come come across this sweet lemon. It is a citrus fruit, native to China, thought to be a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange or sweet orange. The fruit is yellow and it is rounder than a true lemon with a slightly orange tint to the fragrant, edible peel when ripe. It has a sweeter, less acidic flavor than the more common Lisbon or Eureka lemons that are typical in our grocery stores. During my last trip to Choices Market low and behold...Meyer Lemons. They were even the same price as the ordinary lemons. I had hit pay dirt!! What would I do with these little beauties??
My friends Pixie of You Say Tomahto, I Say Tomayto and Rosie of Rosie Bakes a "Peace" of Cake are co-hosting an event called ‘Putting Up’. They are asking you to share your jam, conserve, jelly, marmalade, curd, butter, chutney, pickle, relish and preserves with the rest of the blogosphere. If you haven't met these talented British ladies move on over to their sites. Pull up a chair and spend a few hours browsing their delicious recipes. You don't want to miss this event either.
When making preserved lemons always use organic or unsprayed lemons, since you're going to be eating the skin. Meyer lemons work well for preserving with their milder flavour. I generally do 8-10 lemons at a time, but be sure to buy a few extra lemons for juicing, in case you need to add additional liquid to keep the lemons in the jar submerged while they 'do their thing'. To preserve lemons you should not use ordinary table salt due to its harsh chemical taste. It is recommended to use sea salt or kosher salt.
You can add thin strips of preserved lemons to any braising liquid during the last few minutes of cooking, which adds a nice bit of bright, lemony flavour to whatever you are cooking. Please take care when adding them to a recipe though since the lemons will certainly add a bit more of a salty flavour than you think. Rinse them well and all will be well with the world. Once my little beauties pass puberty I will come up with some dishes to utilize their lemony goodness. One of my favourite and most succulent roasted chicken dishes is Brined Roast Chicken with Preserved Lemons . Melt in your mouth goodness!
Also don't put your fingers into the brine to remove the lemons from jar...use a wooden spoon. This tip comes from Paula Wolfert, a great advocate of Mediterranean foods, whom you may hear a lot about in subsequent posts.
** Moroccan Preserved Lemons**
8-10 Meyer lemons*, scrubbed very clean
1/2 cup kosher or sea salt, more if needed
Extra fresh squeezed lemon juice, if needed
Sterilized quart canning jar (I used 4 smaller jars)
**cloves, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, chili peppers or combination of one or the other.
Place 2 Tbsp of salt in the bottom of a sterilized jar. In this case I used 4 sterilized jars. One by one, prepare the lemons in the following way. Cut off any protruding stems from the lemons, and cut 1/4 inch off the tip of each lemon. Cut the lemons as if you were going to cut them in half lengthwise, starting from the tip, but do not cut all the way. Keep the lemon attached at the base. Make another cut in a similar manner, so now the lemon is quartered, but again, attached at the base.
Pry the lemons open and generously sprinkle salt all over the insides and outsides of the lemons.
Pack the lemons in the jar, squishing them down so that juice is extracted and the lemon juice rises to the top of the jar. Add chili peppers, coriander seeds, bay leaves, peppercorns and cinnamon (or a combination of a few or only one). Fill up the jar with lemons. Press the lemons very firmly in the jar to get their juices flowing. Cover and let stand a few hours. Press down on the lemons once again to extract more juice. Make sure the top is covered with lemon juice. Add more fresh squeezed lemon juice if necessary. Top with a couple tablespoons of salt and more spices.
Seal the jar with sterilized lids and let sit at room temperature for a couple days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally. Put in refrigerator and let sit, again turning upside down occasionally, for at least 3 weeks to one month, until lemon rinds soften and are ready to use.
To use, remove a lemon from the jar and rinse thoroughly in water to remove salt. Discard seeds before using. Discard the pulp before using, if desired.
Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.