Salt, sharp and citrus – lemons preserve us.
Do yourself a favour and make some preserved lemons today. By writing this I’m joining the throngs of posts dedicated to stuffing lemons with salt and bunging them in jars to luxuriate into a yielding, candied mass, but you’ll thank me for it – I promise.
I think the world is divided into people who like telling people what to do and those who couldn’t care less what others do if it doesn’t have any impact on them. I’m most firmly in the last camp proving that my exultation to follow the few simple steps below is heartfelt.
In a few weeks time you’ll have an ingredient to transform stews, partner with fish and lamb to a level you didn’t dream possible and make salads so lip-smacking that teenagers will demand more (this happened – no joke).
There are versions of this, usually called Moroccan, which add spices such as cinnamon sticks, dried chillies, coriander seeds, bay leaves and cloves. In my quest for citrus-imbued heaven I prefer the clean, sharp flavour of the unadulterated lemon and salt combination.
Jars of preserved lemons make wonderful gifts. Don’t be tempted to dip into them for at least a month but then they can sit in your fridge for about a year (although once hooked I’d be amazed if you manage to keep them this long). I’m going to suggest some recipes and uses – but you’ll have to wait until I’m back from my annual UK travels.
Do try to find organic, unwaxed lemons if you can. As this is impossible here in Dubai, I give them a good scrub in some soapy water and then rinse well.
- 8 lemons
- 4 heaped tablespoons sea salt
Makes 1 x 500g jar (easily doubled)
- First clean your jar – use the Kilner-style/Mason type. Remove the rubber seal and put it through the hot cycle of the dishwasher; or wash in hot soapy water and then dry them in a low oven (140 C) for about 10 minutes. Be careful of the metal bits as they get really hot. Replace the seals once cool enough to handle.
- Wash the lemons (as above) if necessary. Cut a lemon almost in half, from the point to the stalk without severing it completely. Repeat on the opposite side so that the lemon is almost in quarters lengthways but joined at the stalk end. Repeat with 3 more lemons.
- Put a tablespoon of salt into the cut insides of each lemon and pack them into the jar. You can wedge a cocktail stick into the neck of the jar to keep them wedged down if you like.
- Close the jar and leave for a couple of days until juice has started to run from the lemons. Squeeze the remaining lemons and pour the juice into the jar so the fruit is completely covered. Leave in a cool, dark place for at least one month. The lemons will become soft and slightly brown. Once you open the jar store in the fridge for up to a year.
- To use, remove the pulp from the lemon and slice or dice the rind and add to a variety of dishes. The salty juice can be used as a condiment too.
Let’s rendezvous in September and chat about what we’re going to do with these beauties. Sneak preview: mashed potato, olives, chicken, fish, tagines, salads and even a cocktail.