What’s salty and sour and yellow all over? No, this is not a dirty joke, I’m talking about preserved lemons. This product of Moroccan ingenuity can’t be found in regular grocery stores. But preserved lemons are ridiculously easy to make and exotically delicious in recipes. I have two sources from which I have adapted this recipe: Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and The New Mediterranean Diet by Nancy Harmon Jenkins.
Start with a dozen or so lemons (organic if you can find them – worth the cost because the rind is the star) and a box of coarse sea salt. Next, look in the refrigerator and take out the half-used glass jar of spaghetti sauce that you can’t remember opening but you are too cheap/lazy to throw away. I don’t eat mayonnaise (eeeewwww) but I bet that kind of jar would work, too. Give the jar a good scrub (do not transfer that old contents to another container – throw it away!) and then get a big pot of water boiling on the stove. Carefully slip the glass jar with its lid into the boiling water and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove the jar and lid from the water and let cool on a dishcloth. While the jar is cooling, scrub the lemons under water, dry them and then slice into quarters vertically from end to end but do not slice all the way through. You want the lemon to hold together. Pack lots of salt inside the cut, massage some salt onto the outside and then slip the entire lemon into the sterilized jar. Now, if you have thought ahead, you chose a jar with an opening large enough for a whole lemon. However, if you just now realize the opening is too small, do not despair. It will be okay if you have to slice apart the lemons to get them in the jar. Yes, I speak from experience. They just won’t be as pretty. When you have packed the jar full, submerge the lemons with juice from the leftover lemons. Screw on the lid and then leave the jar in a cool, dark place for three weeks. I put my jar in the bottom drawer in the fridge and that worked just fine. During this time, if you remember, you can occasionally give the jar a shake. Otherwise, the salty, sour briny liquid will work its magic all by itself.
Now that you are intrigued and inspired to try the lemons, what do you ask, do I use them in? Although an essential ingredient in many Moroccan tagines, the lemons can be used in place of fresh lemon peel in dishes where the understated lemon flavor is a welcome addition. To get you started, blogging has already brought me a new, dear, inspiring and brilliant friend in Christine Pittman, whose recipe for Preserved Lemon and Cantaloupe Salad would be a perfect way to introduce this flavor to your repertoire. Her recipe will be featured on the BlogHer Food Page as an Editor’s Pick. In case you haven’t heard of it, www.blogher.com is a super cool place featuring the best blogs on a huge variety of topics. Way to go Christine! I’m so happy for you that your blog is receiving much deserved attention. Go to Christine’s blog, www.cookthestory.com, for this and more of her inspiring and delicious recipes.
Christine sent me the link to her post: http://www.blogher.com/gift-salad-preserved-lemon-and-cantaloupe-salad?wrap=blogher-topics/food/recipes&crumb=106889
Also, my previous post titled “Detours” mentioned Summer Vegetable Stew with Herb Butter. I used the preserved lemon peel, diced very finely, in the herb butter with very pleasing results. I will very soon remake the recipe so I can share it with photos. I would hate for you to not have an opportunity to try it!
Good news! Note the photos of the lemons on my post! Yes, I bought a new camera, not exactly what I want but one that will get me through the next few weeks. And one that I won’t be frightened to take to the beach or leave unattended on the kitchen counter. I tell you, when I held the Canon Rebel at Colonial Photo and Hobby, my hands shook. Think I’m just not ready for adult photography toys. However, if Karla has any say in the matter, I’ll have my brand spanking new Canon Rebel in no time (and she will have her very own Macbook).