I want to do more preserving, pickling, fermenting…on my (ever-growing) list of things to try. It’s how we’ve preserved food for hundreds of years. A symbiotic way of extending the shelf-life of many foods, unlike our modern day food supply that relies heavily on unnatural preservatives and additives.
However, thus far, haven’t done much pickling, preserving, or fermenting. There’s always that intimidation factor when you’re trying something new. The fear of the unknown. Will it work? Is it worth the effort? Sometimes you just need to jump in and give it a try. Find out for yourself. And then, when you realize how easy it is, you’ll kick yourself for not trying it sooner. Especially, when you get a taste of these preserved lemons. They’re fantastic.
Preserved lemons add a brightness to a dish. They’re tart/sour, though much more subdued compared to a fresh lemon. Preserved lemons have a nice salinity to them without being too salty.
I made a batch of preserved lemons in class (at the Dublin Cookery School) several weeks back. We’ve used them in a variety of dishes, including a handful of salads. But I couldn’t wait to make a batch of my own to experiment with at home (see photos below for a few of my creations).
Preserving lemons is simple. You need but a few ingredients — lemons, of course, coarse sea salt, and a few spices/herbs, if you so desire (I used peppercorns, bay leaves, red chiles, and garlic).
Here’s a quick low-down on the steps: stuff the lemons with a good amount of salt, squeeze them into a sterilized jar (really pack them in; you’ll be able to add a few more lemons in a couple days), layer in your herbs/spices, top with lemon juice, and wait.
For 3 to 4 weeks…
Finally, the preserved lemons are ready to use. Keep them submerged in lemon juice and they will last for quite some time.
Nothing unnatural about that.
Slice the lemons, lengthwise, in quarters, leaving one end intact. Then, stuff them with a good amount of sea salt (like Maldon)…
Really pack the lemons into the jar…
A few days later, the salt will have drawn out some of the moisture from the lemons, and you’ll be able to add a few more lemons to your jar. You’ll want to top the lemons with lemon juice, so that all the lemons are submerged.
After one week…
After three weeks…finally, they’re ready to use.
Typically, just the peel is used. Remove the fleshly part and then finely slice or dice the peel…
Now, the fun part. Time to get creative. These are a few dishes I’ve prepared with my preserved lemons (recipes to follow).
But, this is merely the beginning…just need to replenish my supply.
Pasta with preserved lemons, crispy artichokes, and spinach…
Freekeh with sorrel, mixed herbs, and preserved lemon…
Pan Roasted mackerel fillets, mixed herb bulgur wheat, preserved lemon sauce, and pistachio piccada…
Lastly (at least for the moment), Melissa Clarke (in her cookbook Cook This Now) suggests removing the seeds from the whole lemons and then blending them to form a paste (I added a little water to get them going in the blender and then blended until smooth). Cover with a layer of olive oil and store in the fridge for whenever you get the urge for a hint of preserved lemon.
I made a vinaigrette with the lemon paste — olive oil, preserved lemon paste, white wine vinegar, shallot, crushed garlic, fresh thyme, black pepper, a pinch of smoked paprika, and a little honey to balance out the tartness.
coarse sea salt (like Maldon)
whole peppercorns (black, red, and/or white)
whole garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed with the side of a chef’s knife
a few bay leaves
a few dried red chiles
Equipment: a large sterile glass canning jar
To sterilize the jar: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Clean the jar well. Place the jar upside down in a preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Slice the lemons in quarter lengthwise, leaving one end intact. Stuff the lemons with coarse sea salt and squeeze closed. Squeeze the lemons into the jar (really pack them in), layered with the peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves, and chiles. Let sit at room temperature for a few days.
After a few more days, add a few more lemons (stuffed with coarse sea salt), and top with lemon juice. Let the lemons preserve at room temperature for three to four weeks. Make sure the lemons are fully submerged. After three to four weeks, they should be ready to use.
Note: The preserved lemons are fine to keep at room temperature as long as they’re fully submerged in lemon juice. You can also store in the refrigerator.