Food for Thought
4:00 am
Wed October 24, 2012

Make your own preserved lemons

In this week's culinary adventure Nancy Leson and I chat about our canning projects.  Balsamic jams for her and preserved lemons for me.   Preserved lemons give a powerful jolt of flavor. 

My introduction to them was in Molly Stevens' Moroccan Chicken recipe in her All About Braising. -- a real favorite of the L & T.

Nancy tells me they're now available in the fancy supermarkets.   But don't buy them.  Why spend the money when you can make your own?  It's easy.  There are lots of recipes available on the web but here's how I do it.

Preserved Lemons

12 small lemons

1/2 Cup pickling salt*

White vinegar

1. Scrub the lemons with a vegetable brush n warm water with a little dish soap to remove any insecticide.  Rinse well.

2. Cut lengthwise into halves and squeeze out juice to a separate container.

3. Cut the halves into lengthwise quarters.  Rub in the salt. 

4. Pack the lemon quarters  into a very clean jar and pour reserved lemon juice over to cover, leaving about a half inch of space at top (There's never enough juice to do this so I usually top off the jar with white vinegar.  I've never seen this in any recipe but it seems to work fine for me.  You could always squeeze extra lemons to make up the difference instead).

5.  Leaving about 1/2 inch of space at top of jar, screw on the lid and store in a cool, dark place for about three weeks.  Every ten days or so turn the jar upside down for a few hours to redistribute the salt and then right-side-up, again.  After three weeks  they're ready to use**.  Store in the fridge for up to a year.

* Pickling salt is pure, finely granulated salt.  It doesn't have the anti-caking chemicals present in other salts, which can lead to a cloudy brine.

** Most of the time you'll want just the peel, not the pulp.  Lay the piece flat on a cutting board.  Holding your knife horizontally, shave off the pulp and discard.  Rinse the peel well in cold water and mince or julienne for use in the recipe.

Preserved lemons are used in Indian and Cambodian cooking, too.  Most recently I laid slivers of it onto the surface of chicken Parmesan cutlets before spreading on the sauce and the cheese.  Worked great.

"When life hands you lemons, don't make love."

– Meems