I’ve been intrigued by the pile of Meyer Lemons so beautifully displayed by Dragonfly Fields at the Seaside Farmers Market. I couldn’t help but bring some home, though what to do with all those lemons? Lemonade, tarts, marmalade, all of the above, but when sugar is no longer on the menu – at least not in quantities these treats would entail – what else? Salt preserved lemons, of course.
Salt preserved lemons are popular in Moroccan cuisine, excellent in fish and poultry dishes, and perfect in stews. The rind and the pith impart the flavor, though the pulp may also be used.
There are oodles of variations of preserved lemons on the interwebs, though I decided on this super easy method to preserve the season’s citrus. No need to get hung up on the details, just grab yourself some salt and lemons, and a sterilized jar. I used a half-gallon mason jar, 6-7 Meyer lemons, Kosher salt, and a few spices: peppercorns, bay leaf, coriander, and a cinnamon stick.
Cut the lemons in quarters, keeping the quarters attached by not cutting all the way through. Put a spoonful of salt in the bottom of the jar. Liberally salt the inside of the lemons then push the whole lemons into the jar. Squish and pack them in, layering with a spoonful of salt and the spices between lemons. Top the lemons with extra juice to cover. I didn’t have enough juice to fill the jar so I filled a plastic bag with water and pressed the lemons down to express as much juice as possible, then placed the bag on top and sealed with the lid. The water filled bag will reduce air exposure.
Leave the jar to rest on a counter for about 30 days. Give the jar a good shake daily. That’s it. Some sources say to refrigerate after 30 days, others say they’ve never refrigerated their salted lemons. They will keep for up to a year. The salt preserves the lemons and inhibits the growth of microorganisms. Salt preservation has been used long before the advent of modern refrigeration, hence its value in pre-industrial times.
To use the lemons, remove from the jar, rinse if they are too salty, slice or chop and add to your dish. Place sliced lemons under the skin of a whole roasted chicken, top baked or grilled fish, or mix with chopped tomatoes, capers, and olive oil for a tomato salad. Experiment with other spices like hot peppers or cardamom pods.
***posted on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on 01/13/2012***