Thursday, August 15, 2013

preserved lemons

Let me start by saying that I've never pickled or preserved anything in my life.  Really, I can't even tell you if this recipe works, since it's still in my cabinet doing its preserving business.  In theory, it should work barring any human error in the process.  So this is my first theoretical post.

If it does, in fact, work (and it will), then in thirty days you will end up with the perfect accessory to chicken tagine.  That being my primary motivator in this experiment.  Of course, I'll have to try them out in other recipes since I'll have quite a bit of preserved lemon when all is said and done.  The good news is that when they are ready, they'll last up to a year in the fridge (in theory).

I'm trying to think of how to describe a preserved lemon to someone who has never tasted one, if that happens to be you.  Well, the first thing you should know is that the desired product is the peel, which becomes pickled and looses any bitterness, while remaining tart.  It takes on a concentrated citrus flavor and a brininess that explains why its often paired with olives in North African cuisine to flavor more bland meats, like poultry.  They would be amazing in any recipe that calls for lots of citrus to dress a mellow flavor, so fish and pasta.  By the way, you can choose how much spice you want to add, or add none at all.  Anyways, see you back here for chicken tagine in a month (in theory)!

Ingredients (makes 1 quart-sized mason jar of lemons):
  • 1 sterile, quart-sized mason jar
  • 6 lemons, but fewer if they are on the medium-large side
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 10 coriander seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about the length of the jar)
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper (or whole black pepper seeds)
  • 1 cup lemon juice

Prep your lemons by slicing off the end with the bits of stem.  Slice the lemons in half lengthwise, but not all the way through.  Turn the lemon and do the same, so the lemons are almost completely quartered.
Pour the salt into the center of each lemon, pressing it between the quarters to cover all surfaces of the flesh.
Place a layer of salt on the bottom of the jar, then press in the first lemon.  Add a layer of spices and the cinnamon stick, followed by another layer of salt, before adding the next lemon.  Squeeze the lemons in as much as possible, separating the quarters, if necessary.
Use the lemon juice to fill the jar, so all the lemons are submerged.  Then, cap and store in a cabinet for a month.  Once you open the jar, keep the preserved lemons refrigerated.

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