Salt Preserved Lemons
February 23, 2011
Yes, it is true, I’m on a serious citrus kick. Why not? What better to brighten the palette on a dark and dreary winter day, than the vibrant colors and tart flavors of lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and lime? Lemons are my current favorite. Last summer, in an act of manifest destiny, we cut down our lemon tree to make way for a larger outdoor dining area. Luckily our neighbors have supplied us with a steady stream of Meyer lemons to fuel each of my citric indulgences. The latest… Salt Preserved Lemons.
This recipe comes from my grandmother’s recipe file. She, like me, sought out ways to celebrate each harvest and make it last. The first time I made these, I had no idea what to do with them. Luckily, they last a ridiculously long time in the refrigerator, so I had plenty of time to accumulate recipes. (After a year in the fridge, they still tasted fine, but I tossed them because it just seemed wrong to be eating something so old.) They are used often in North African and Middle Eastern foods. They can be added to dishes whole or you can remove the pulp and pith and add the preserved zest.
The process here is pretty simple. I soak the whole lemons in a brine solution for 3 days (changing the brine each day). Then slice the lemons into wedges, toss in salt, sugar, and spices. Pack the lemons into a sterile jar and top off with lemon juice. I like to use the type of jar that has a rubber gasket. This prevents the salt and acid from touching metal (as it would with a Ball or Kerr jar lid). Over time the metal will corrode. If you don’t have a jar like mine, place a double layer of plastic wrap over the top of the jar and screw on the lid. This will protect the metal.
Use preserved lemons in any dish you would use lemons and salt. Blend them up in hummus, use in dressings, add to stews with chicken or lamb. Once you start using them you’ll find a million uses. If you need preserved lemons for dinner tonight, check out Mark Bittmans’s quick preserved lemon recipe. The flavor is not quite as complex, but it is quick and works in a pinch. Here is a recipe we enjoy for using preserved lemons: Braised Moroccan Chicken and Olives.
Salt Preserved Lemons
Makes 1 quart
12-16 lemons (preferably organic), washed
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup kosher salt (plus more for brine)
3 T Sugar
1 teaspoon Peppercorns
1 Bay Leaf
Mix one quart of water with 1 Tablespoon salt. Stir until salt dissolves. Put lemons in a bowl and pour brine over. The brine should cover the lemons. If it doesn’t, mix another quart of brine and add until the lemons are covered. Weigh the lemons down with a plate and let sit on counter for one day. You can repeat this process, changing the brine daily, for up to 1 week. The brine will help reduce the bitterness of the lemon.
the Salt preserve
Drain the lemons and dry with a clean towel. Juice enough lemons to make 1 cup fresh lemon juice. Cut remaining lemons into 6 or 8 wedges. Put the wedges in a bowl and toss with salt, sugar, and peppercorns. Pack the salt crusted lemons into a sterile jar, see note above about jar choices. Bury the bay leaf half way through. Pack them in tight so they will not float. Pour the lemon juice over the lemon wedges. If they are not covered, add enough water to cover the lemons. Cover (be sure not to have the salt and lemon juice in contact with metal, it will corrode. See note above) and let sit on counter for 2 days. Tip to mix solution a couple of times a day. Move to refrigerator to store. They will be ready in one month, but will keep well for at least a year.
Here is a printer friendly version of the recipe: Salt Preserved Lemons
For more information on food preservation see, Home Canning Basics.
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