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Preserved Lemons

Savor your lemons with this Mediterranean staple–the salty, sour taste brightens everything from grilled fish to salads to cocktails.

When the New York Times recently published their DIY Handbook, a little spurt of horray! went through me. A long supporter of saving your veggie scraps for stock, using mushroom soup seconds for pickled delights, and taking the two-day time to hand fold puff pastry, these simple recipes- everything from a corn muffin mix to fresh cheese- go hand-in-hand with my living life for food mentality. So I was excited to try these hallowed writer’s suggestions on the best homemade concoctions, and you can’t go wrong with this preserved lemon recipe.

Like the other dozen or so recipes in the mix, this is a variation from a tried and true home preservation cookbook– specifically the recipe hails from Paula Wolfert’s tome Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco. A staple of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, preserved lemons are often used to fragrance tangines and marinades, in chicken dishes and in salads. Though you can purchase the salty-sour citrus in stores, the homemade variety allows for additional spices such as cinnamon, cardamon or fennel, and you can continually add left-over lemons to the salted lemon juice (just make sure everything is completely covered in liquid). After a few weeks you’ll not only have pickled lemons to julienne into spring salads, coleslaws, and top sautéed fish with, you’ll also have a great lemony brine to add to salad dressings and marinades. So the next time you find yourself with a few extra lemons almost past their prime, save the day with this DIY recipe.

Preserved Lemons, adapted from New York Times D.I.Y. Handbook, makes two-pint jars
7 to 9 medium, organic lemons
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
2 heaping tbsp black peppercorns
4 bay leaves

1.  Scrub  7 to 8 lemons, enough to fit snugly in the two jars. Slice the lemons from the top in half, just to a 1/2-inch from the bottom, and then again the other way, so the lemon is quartered but still attached at one end.  Rub kosher salt all over lemons and reshape back together.

2. Cover the bottom of each jar with 2 tbsp of kosher salt. Fit all the lemons into the two jars, breaking them apart if necessary. Sprinkle each layer with remaining salt.

3. Press the lemons down into jars to release their juices. Add to each jar one tbsp black peppercorns and 2 bay leaves, and any additional spices you may desire. Squeeze the additional 1 to 2 lemons into the jars until juice covers everything. It may be easier to pour the contents of the jar into a bowl, mix thoroughly and then refill the jar, layering the lemons with the brine.

4. Close the jars tightly and place in a cool dark place, shaking the jars every day for 3 to 4 weeks, or until the rinds are tender to the bite. Continue to store in the refrigerator for up to one year.

5. To use: remove a piece of lemon and rinse. Julienne, or thinly slice, lemon rind and add to salads, at the end of cooking (especially good with sautéed hearty greens and seafood), and baked goods. Scoop the pulp (or use the brine) out and add to everything from jams to marinades to purees (or Bloody Marys).

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