I love the taste of preserved lemons - a bold lemony essence that is more mellow and less tart.
I also find it comforting to make them and have a jar or two sitting on our kitchen counter. It's like watching sea monkeys grow, but different.
In the morning I take note of their progress as they change. I see how they soften and slowly nestle down inside the glass jar. I track them as they change from bright yellow into vivid golden orbs that light up the room.
Although they only take 20 minutes to prepare, preserved lemons can take a month, certainly not less than two weeks, before ready to eat. But then they practically last forever.
As preserving projects go, this one is very easy. Some scrubbing, trimming, slicing, and packing with salt, and a little squeezing for juice.
Visual learners will appreciate this brief and excellent how-to video.
Make one jar or twenty, depending on quantity and size of jars and lemons.
You will need:
Salt (sea salt or kosher)
Lemons (some to preserve and some for juice)
Spices are optional: add fennel or caraway seeds, cinnamon sticks, bruised cardamom pods, bay or kaffir lime leaves, crushed dried chilies or whole black peppercorns.
I use well washed jars. If you want to sterilize your jars, wash them well in hot soapy water, rinse and place into a preheated oven at 250 F for 20 minutes. Sterilize lids in boiling water for 5 minutes.
Thoroughly scrub lemons.
Trim the nubs of both ends of each lemon.
I like to quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom. Cut all the way through, into four quarters, especially if using small jars.
Stuff salt inside the opening and reshape.
Place enough salt to cover the bottom of the jar.
Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt and the optional spices between layers.
Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for more lemons.
Fill the jar with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Make sure the lemons are well submerged. Push them down further into the jar and add some more juice if necessary.
Seal the jar and let sit on counter. Once opened store in the refrigerator.
Check on the lemons for the next few days. Upend them from time to time and give them a shake to redistribute the loose salt.
When they're ready, pluck one from the jar and rinse it under cool running water to remove excess salt. If you skip this step hold back on adding any salt to the recipe.
Use the whole lemon (seeds removed) or discard the pith and pulp and add the rind only.
How to use your preserved lemons:
Mash with butter and fresh herbs and smear on top of grilled fish or roasted vegetables.
Chop and add to yogurt with bit of honey.
Pair with olives in a tapenade.
In a risotto.
Finely dice and mix with green beans, peas or carrots.
Add thin strips to braising liquid during the last few minutes of cooking.
Whizz them into your salad dressing.
Make ice cream.
Chop and add to guacamole and hummus.
Use the lemony brine in a cocktail.
They make a wonderful gift for the enthusiastic cook or foodie friend.