I was in the mood for something Moroccan (can you guess what kind of recipes will be posted in the coming days? Oh the suspense!), and if there is any recurring ingredients in Moroccan recipes, it is preserved lemons.
I’ve never had preserved lemons before and it seems two methods are popular: one is just lemons and salt and the other is generally the same but with various savory spices added into the mix. Being both a fan of lemons and as decisive as ever, I decided to make two jars: one spiced and one “plain.” Now that I’d finally made that tough call, I got all ready only to find that I only had one clean jar handy (doh!).
The basic idea is that you take some lemons (tis the season for Meyer lemons–thin skinned and deliciously sweet!) and essentially pickle it in salt and its own juices to intensify the flavors. I love lemons, and when life gives you lemons, you make….preserved lemons (that’s how it goes, right?).
For now, I only did the plain version. However, in the coming days/weeks, I’ll get a second jar going according to this recipe here–not like I could give you tasting notes anyways–the actual preserving process takes a couple of weeks and I’m not one to sit on a blog post for more than a couple of days (I’ll try to remember to come back with an update once I get to taste it). Also, loyal readers, I need your help for something of grave importance. When I told my wife I would be making preserved lemons, she asked me what they were and when I explained, she replied:
“Oh, you mean lemon pickle! We had that all the time in India.”
“No, not pickle, preserved lemons.”
“Well, they are kind of pickled, but they’re not pickle. Its different.”
“Well you know–they’re preserved. Preserved lemons.”
So there you have it. Clearly I’m right….right? 😉
These recipes are halved since I have small jars (and I planned on doing one of each). A normal sized jar (~1 quart) would call for around 10 lemons (have extras handy though), so adjust the recipe accordingly.
- 5 meyer lemons
- 1/4 cup salt, maybe more
- 5 meyer lemons
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- a few whole cloves
- a few whole peppercorns
- 1 cardamom pod
- 1 star anise
- 1 Bay leaf
Preparing this is incredibly easy. Like whenever making anything preserved, ensure you have clean, sterile jars. Also wash the skins of your lemons well–any waxes, pesticides, etc will all be in the mix, so you want to scrub that gunk off now.
Pour a layer of salt in the bottom of your jar. Chop the tips off of the lemons and then slice into quarters without cutting entirely through. The idea is to expose the inside of the lemon so it can juice out without dicing every lemon down into little chunks (which could then break down and fall apart–not what you want). Cover the flesh of the lemon with salt, forcing each one into the bottom of the jar and pressing it down so there’s no free space in there. Keep pressing lemons in and add salt as you go. If you can remove any seeds without losing much juice, go for it, but don’t worry about getting them all.
If you’re doing the spiced version, also slide in the spices as you go, trying to distribute somewhat evenly in the jar.
Top off the jar with extra lemon juice, filling all the way up to the rim. Air in the enemy–do your best to fill the jar all the way up with juice and press out any errant air bubbles. Seal the jar, give it a shake, and now….wait. Tomorrow, flip it over and shake. The day after, again. Is there air in there now that things have settled a bit more? If so, clean another lemon, open the jar, top it off with the juice, and reseal.
Let this sit at room temperature for about a month or two and give it a shake when you remember to (ideally, once a day, but don’t stress about it). Once time is up, transfer the jar to the fridge and feel free to use it during the next couple of months. Be sure to write the date on the jar somewhere–homemade has an expiration date, too!