Preserved Lemons

6 Dec

So, seeing as how we are almost through the first week of December, I suppose we should start thinking about gifts eh? I feel like whatever festive day you call your own, a present or two will always come in handy during these beautiful months of winter. For the past few years I have attempted to make something exciting and special to disperse amongst those who are close. One year I bound books, another year my Ma and I went on a gingersnap/seed brittle bake-off. Most recently, we sent out small batches of homemade Olalliberry Jam and Roasted Hazelnut Butter. I find that it’s a fantastic way to be creative while spreading the holiday love, and in my eyes the nicest little gift you could give as it comes straight from the heart (and usually the kitchen).

If we have ever cooked together you probably know that I am obsessed with fresh lemon juice. In my opinion, almost everything is better with a little hit of citrus. At Olympic, I feel like our chef Erin runs with the same model. We use preserved lemons in almost a quarter of our dishes if not more. These lemons, traditionally used in Moroccan/Mediterranean cooking are basically cured in their own juices with the addition of a large amount of salt. They’ve appeared on our menu served with everything from Brussel Sprouts with Creamy Preserved Lemon Dressing to Spaghetti with Dungeness Crab and Parsley. Many times they are simply chopped fine and mixed with fresh herbs to be used as a garnish. They are an amazing addition to many different types of dishes as their intensity adds a unique flavor that really can’t be mimicked. They are like a kaffir lime leaf or a vanilla bean, nothing competes with the real deal. Do take note that a little goes a long way, so familiarize yourself before using a heavy hand.

Packed in small mason jars, these would make an amazing gift for any friend that loves good food or experimenting with new ingredients.

They take about 10 lemons, a box of salt and 15 minutes of prep time, but they have to sit for about three weeks before they are ready for eating. I know you can do quick preserved lemons as well, but this method is for the old school version.

Here she is.

Makes about 1 quart, but you can disperse them into whatever sized jars you please.

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 medium lemons, scrubbed clean, (get Meyer lemons if you can)
  • 3/4-1 cup kosher salt
  • extra fresh lemon juice
  • optional ingredients: bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, red pepper flakes, peppercorns, etc.
  • sterilized mason jars

Directions:

  • Place 2-tablespoons salt on the bottom of your jar. If you are using smaller jars, use less.
  • To prepare the lemons, cut off about 1/4 inch off one end. From there, cut the lemons in half like you would an onion before you chop it, going almost all the way to but not through the other end. Do the same once more to create four separate wedges of lemon, all attached to the same root if you will.
  • Open and generously sprinkle salt all over the inside and outside of each lemon. Really use your fingers, salting each one thoroughly. Pack the lemons in the jar, squishing them down so that juice is extracted and rises to the top. They should be very compact and covered with juice. Add more if necessary.
  • Top with a couple additional tablespoons of salt and add whichever optional ingredients you desire.
  • Seal the jar using boiling water and let sit at room temperature for a couple of days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally. Then, put it in the refrigerator and let it sit for at about 3 weeks. Flip occasionally until lemon rinds soften.
  • When you are ready to use the lemons, remove the quantity you plan to use and rinse it lightly with water. You can use the rinds and pulp, but remove the seeds. Some people only use the rinds, so taste for yourself and decide what you like best. When adding to your dish, chop very fine like you would garlic.
  • Hand out to loved ones or store in the fridge for up to six months and enjoy!
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