Last week I got a sack of locally grown Meyer and Eureka lemons from our fabulous neighborhood produce redistribution people, Temescal Amity Works. They collect excess fruit and produce from neighborhood trees and gardens, and pass them along to other neighbors. When my lemons are done I will send some jars back their way. It’s a great idea and I think all neighborhoods should have an organization like this.
Preserved lemons are a great beginning-preserver recipe, since the two ingredients salt and acid, in essence are themselves preserving agents.
I hope this recipe is simple and easy to follow even for folks who have never done this sort of thing. While the time involved seems substantial, the actual time spent “cooking” is less than an hour for a few pounds of lemons.
I adapted this method from the book Moroccan Cafe.
1. Scrub the lemons with a stiff brush and rinse in warm water. Put the lemons in a non-reactive bowl and cover with cold water. Soak them for four days, changing the water each day.
2. On the fourth day, you will salt the lemons and pack them into jars. First prepare your jars: Wash and rinse them well, then rinse them with boiling water and allow to dry.
3. Put a good amount of kosher salt into a bowl. Cut the lemons nearly into quarters, leaving one end intact. (Some recipes say to leave the center intact but I find this method hard to salt and pack.) Pack salt into the lemons, using about a tablespoon or two per lemon, and put each lemon into a jar once it’s salted.
4. When all the lemons have been salted and packed into jars, add an additional amount of salt to each jar: one tablespoon for pint jars, two for quarts.
5. Close up the jars and let them sit in a cool dark place for three days.
6. On the third day, top up each jar with boiling water. Then close the jars, return them to their cool dark place, and let sit for one month. At the end of the month they will be ready to use. They should keep fine in the cupboard, but refrigerate each jar after you open it.
Both the rind and the flesh are used. Use preserved lemons in chicken tagine and other Moroccan recipes. Diced finely, they add flavor to salads or dressings. It seems that the brine would be a good seasoning, since both salt and lemon juice enhance flavor, though I’ve never tried this. I have heard that using preserved lemons to stuff a chicken for roasting will add a good flavor to the chicken.
–> Wear rubber gloves while packing the lemons. Unless, of course, you are curious whether you have any tiny cuts on your hands, and want to know where they are.
–> Hold the lemons over a bowl while you pack them. Then you can scoop up the salt that falls in the bowl and use it on the next lemon.
–> Some methods have you shake the jars every day, or once a week. I tend to leave them alone except for a few swishes at the beginning to dissolve the salt.
–> There may be a white substance coating the lemons when you remove them for use. You can rinse this off without losing any flavor.