Last December, during one of my it’s-the-holidays-so-I’m-indulging excursions to Whole Foods, I spied containers of preserved lemons. Nothin’ fancy, just small, whole Eureka lemons, juice, salt, and citric acid in plastic deli containers. I’ll admit it was a total impulse buy. Preserved lemons weren’t even on my radar, but eh, it was the holidays, after all. (You see how that kind of thinking can get a person into trouble.)
Turns out that preserved lemons are my new favorite condiment. For the rest of December and through the early part of January, I was finding ways to work preserved lemons into every savory dish I made: baked fish with herbs, roasted vegetables, and pastas. My favorite combo? Soba noodles tossed in olive oil and this twist on gremolata: roasted garlic, sautéed preserved lemon, minced parsley, and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper. Topped with freshly grated cheese, of course.
If you read my post about Lemonpalooza a couple of weeks ago, let me tell you that the abundance of over-the-fence Meyers and backyard Eurekas continues! After some hemming and hawing about it, I finally decided it was time to make my own preserved lemons. I’m still baby-stepping my way into preserving foods. If you’re in the same boat, preserved lemons are a good place to start. There’s no cooking involved, although it’s a good idea to sterilize the jars in which you’ll store the lemons while they do their thing for 30 days. Oh, yeah, that’s the kicker: you have to wait 30 days.
There are a few variations of preserved lemon recipes floating around the interwebs, but Paula Wolfert’s version seems to be the mother recipe; you can find it on Epicurious and Leite’s Culinaria. The Leite’s Culinaria version is more concise, while the Epicurious version provides more detail and includes notes from Wolfert. Read both to get the full picture. To paraphrase one comment I read: “if you’ve got salt and lemons, you can make preserved lemons.” Yep, it’s that easy.
I decided to go with the spices-added version from Epicurious. Because I have 24-ounce jars and plenty of lemons, I scaled up the recipe to make 1.5 times the amount (just multiply every ingredient by 1.5). I don’t have permission to post the recipe here, but I can give you the peep-show version of what I did.
First up: the mise en place. Make sure you’ve sterilized your jar(s) and assembled your ingredients. Tip: Sharpen your knife before starting. It’s a lot easier to slice through citrus peels with a sharp knife.
I used the muddler from my home bar to press the salt-stuffed lemons into the canning jar and force out some of the juice.
After I layered all of the lemons and spices into the jar, using the muddler to press down each layer, I added lemon juice to cover everything. (Remember those 10 Meyer lemons I zested to make limoncello? I used the naked lemons for the juice to cover my preserved lemons.) Et voila!
Preserved lemons should be stored in a warm spot, so I went up — storing the jar in the wasted space on top of the upper cabinets in my kitchen. (Ah, see — another way I’m reducing waste in the kitchen!)
There’s also a recipe for a seven-day version of Paula Wolfert’s preserved lemons on Epicurious. Not as highly rated, but easy-peasy to make. Hey, I had more lemons, juice, and another jar… not to mention all of that above-cabinet storage space, so I knocked that one out, too. It will be interesting to compare the quickie version with the long, slow version.
Mise en place: no spices in this one, just lemons, salt, and juice.
Another difference? The prep is super quick. When making the seven-day version, you cut the lemons into slices and toss them with salt. In the 30-day version, you cut the lemons just enough to stuff them with salt.
Next week I’ll have the quickie version ready for taste-testing. You’ll be able to check out the results on 650Food’s Facebook page! Have you made preserved lemons? What are your tips or favorite recipes using this flavorful condiment?