LEMONS, SALT AND TIME!
Preserved Lemons are easy to make; just lemons, salt and time!
Fresh lemons are a workhorse in the kitchen. They add an acidic, bright zing to dishes unlike any other ingredient. While fresh lemon juice heightens flavor, preserved lemons add a fermented punch to any dish.
When Paula Wolfert introduced Americans to preserved lemons in her cookbook Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco in 1973, many were unfamiliar with this product. At the time it was considered something of an exotic ingredient, found only in ethnic dishes such as Moroccan tagines and North African stews. Today it sits between mustard and chutney on grocery store shelves. As tempting as it may be to grab one, creating this versatile condiment requires just three things; lemons, salt and time. That’s it!
IN SEASON NOW!
Although finding citrus all-year round is easy, winter is when citrus is at its peak. Making a few jars of preserved lemons will save this fruit long after the bounty is gone. Eureka lemons are typically used however, the popular Meyer lemon makes for a sweet alternative. The spice mixture in this recipe is optional. With or without the spices, preserved lemons can be used in place of fresh lemons in most recipes.
Replace preserved lemon for lemon zest in gremolata, it’s delicious with roasted asparagus and carrots. A few drops of preserved lemon juice in a bloody mary adds a umami quality. A tablespoon of chopped preserved lemon gives a boost to a pot of beans or a bowl of grains. One of my favorites is to combine cooked pasta, shredded chicken, roasted broccoli, olive oil and a tablespoon or so of chopped preserved lemon rind, finish with several grinds of freshly ground pepper, parmesan and chopped parsley.
The possibilities are nearly endless.
- Preserved Lemons
- 9 or 10 lemons, preferably organic
- About ½ cup (60g) kosher salt
- Optional spice mixture:
- 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves
- 5 or 6 coriander seeds
- 3 or 4 black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- Scrub 5 of the lemons well, then soften them by rolling them back and forth on a firm work surface. Quarter each softened lemon from the blossom end to within ¼ inch of the stem end. Spread the salt in a wide, shallow bowl. Sprinkle 1 to 2 teaspoons of the salt on the exposed flesh of the lemons, then reshape the fruits. Halve and squeeze the remaining 4 or 5 lemons to total ½ cup juice. If using the spice mixture, have all the ingredients ready in a small bowl.
- Place 1 tablespoon of the salt at the bottom of a large widemouthed glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Place the 5 prepared lemons into the jar, adding more salt and the spice mixture, if using, between the lemons. Firmly push down on the lemons so they release their juices. (A cocktail muddler is and ideal too for this.) Top with the ½ cup fresh lemon juice. The lemons should be completely submerged, with about ½-inch headspace between the liquid and the inside of the lid. Add more lemon juice if needed to cover. Screw on lid.
- Let the lemons ripen in a warm place for 30 days, turning the jar upside down every few days to distribute the salt and juice. If necessary, add more lemon juice to keep the lemons covered. Transfer to the refrigerator.
- To use the lemons, remove them from their brine as needed, using a wooden spoon or tongs to extract them, Rinse them unser running cool water to remove the excess salt. Usually on the rind is used.
- They will keep for up to one year.
- Adapted from “Unforgettable, The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life”
- By Emily Kaiser Thelin (Grand Central Life & Style 2017)