Recipe: preserved lemons
Good grief it feels so good to get things done again! Baking, candy making, and assorted projects are underway and in full swing. After candying a double batch of orange peels, I had a good bit of orange sugar syrup left. I’ve had several people ask me what to do with the sugar syrup and so I’m gonna tell you (I also edited the post on making orangettes to include these suggestions). If the syrup is thick or starting to solidify, you can stir some water into the leftover sugar syrup over high heat to get it to a uniform distribution. Let it come to a boil then turn off the heat and let it cool. Pour it into a glass jar and store it in the refrigerator. You can use it as an orange (or citrus) flavored simple syrup for fruity cocktails, add it to fresh lemon or lime juice and seltzer water for a fizzy fruity cordial, add it to hot tea, use it to soak tea cakes, eat it with pancakes, waffles, or French toast. You get the idea…
orange sugar syrup
So in my last post, I mentioned that I would tell you how to make preserved lemons. I wouldn’t have made these except for the fact that 1) I really wanted to make that Moroccan butternut squash and chickpea stew and 2) I couldn’t find preserved lemons. After a few weeks, I said to myself, “To hell with it! I’ll make my OWN preserved lemons!” I went to the store in search of organic Meyer lemons and found zippo… for two weeks straight. In early November, after I had dragged Jeremy to Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, we passed the Bi-Rite Market just down the street. I popped in to look for organic Meyer lemons. I found them. I bought them. All of them.
yup, that’s all of them
Why organic? I try to buy organic in general, but I’m insistent when it comes to something like citrus if you plan to eat the peel. And the peel is the the big deal in preserved lemons. You don’t have to use Meyer lemons. Regular lemons work fine too, but Meyers are so fragrant and sweet. They are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. That’s awesome crossed with awesomer as far as I’m concerned. Oh, and Meyers are super juicy.
lop the end off
quarter them, leaving the base intact
Some folks cut the lemons into quarters, others quarter them but keep the lemon connected at the base, and I’ve also seen whole preserved lemons in stores. Cutting them into quarters makes it much easier to pack them into a jar, but keeping them intact at the base or whole is prettier in my opinion. It’s that geometry issue with elliptical spheroids in a finite volume. Make sure you have a good deal of kosher salt on hand.
pack the lemons with salt
In case you were wondering if you had any cuts or scrapes on your hand, this is a GREAT way to find out… lemon juice, salt. Disposable gloves can help prevent screams of pain when you preserve the lemons. Once the lemons are ready, put some salt in the bottom of your sterilized jar and start packing the lemons in (alternating with more salt). You’re going to have to manhandle the lemons and squish them around. Juice will squeeze out – that’s okay. I tore a few accidentally, but most of them survived the process.
a little salt
squash them down
If your lemons don’t squeeze out enough juice to top the jar, then juice a couple of extra lemons (you have extras, right?) and add liquid until they cover the lemons. Sprinkle salt on top and seal that jar. I had extra lemons still because I had doubled the recipe, so I popped them into a spare Weck jar I had on hand. It’s so darn cute.
sprinkle salt on top
seal and let them sit about the house for a few days
Let the jar sit in a warm room for about three days, occasionally turning it upside down. After three days, move it to the refrigerator for three weeks – still turning it over every other day or so. After the first week of refrigeration, I found some preserved lemons at Peppercorn in downtown Boulder. Of course I would! Paying an arm and a leg for that jar only makes my stash of organic homemade preserved lemons EVEN MORE precious. Not to mention, mine taste better than the expensive store-bought jar of lemons.
ready to use
For my next batch (oh yes, there will be more!), I plan to add spices and chili peppers for a zingy version. I know preserved lemon is an acquired taste for some, but I think I’m addicted to it. It’s fantastic in this charred savoy cabbage salad from Delancey in Seattle. It’s always good to learn how to do things…
lemons, salt, and a little patience is all you need
from the lovely Elise of Simply Recipes
8-10 organic Meyer lemons, scrubbed very clean (you can use regular lemons, but Meyers are kind of super awesome)
1/2 cup kosher salt, more as needed
additional fresh squeezed lemon juice, as needed
sterilized quart canning jar
Put a couple of tablespoons of salt in the bottom of the jar. Trim any stems off the lemons and cut 1/4 inch from the tip of each lemon. You can either quarter the lemons lengthwise or cut them into quarters without cutting through the end – leaving the four quarters intact at the base. Gently open the lemons like a flower and sprinkle a generous amount of salt on the inside of each lemon and then sprinkle more on the outsides. Pack the lemons into the jar, pressing down so that the juice spills out and fills the jar. Keep adding lemons until the jar is full. The lemons should be covered with juice, but if they aren’t, you can add some of that extra lemon juice to top it off. Sprinkle a final couple of tablespoons of salt over the lemons before sealing the jar shut. Let it sit at room temperature for three days, periodically (like once or twice a day) flipping the jar upside down. Move the jar to the refrigerator for three weeks, still flipping the jar upside down ever couple of days. It will be ready when the rinds are soft. When you are ready to use a lemon, rinse off the salt with water and pick out any seeds. Some folks like the scrape out the pulp, but I leave it in. Store for up to 6 months.