Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spring Preserving, Part 2: Preserved Lemons

After canning the marmalades, I was still drowning in lemons and grapefruits. I realized I was going to have to get creative, and quick!

Other than marmalade, the only other recipe that I came across featuring lemons was called (drumroll please...) Preserved Lemons! I know, clever. It's essentially lemons preserved in gobs of salt, and is a mainstay of Moroccan cuisine. I danced around the idea for quite a while before giving it a try. After all, what do I do with salty lemons? I don't have any interest in Moroccan food. But, with a huge bowl of lemons calling to me, I figured what the heck.

There's no rocket science to this. Many recipes have you keep the lemons whole, but I sliced them into 6 sections. The rind is primarily used, so I figured I would be more likely to use it if it was easier to cut up, and in smaller portions. Once your lemons are all sliced, dump a lot of salt into a jar. Then add a layer of lemons. Then add another gob of salt. Then lemons, then salt, etc., ending with salt. When you get to the top of the jar, press down hard on the lemons until they start releasing their juice. You want to make sure the lemons are completely covered by the salty liquid. (Once again, you don't want to do this if you have any cuts on your hands. Unless you're a kitchen badass. Or just a masochist.) If your lemons don't release enough juice to cover them completely, add the juice of another lemon (or the bottled stuff, no shame in it) until you have enough. Now cap your jar and let it sit at room temperature for up to a week before moving it to the fridge.

When I made these, I followed the typically prescribed method of giving the jar a shake every now and again while it sat out. Thanks to my dependable forgetfulness, my jar sat out way longer than a week. After the first week, I tasted the rind and was surprised by how much I liked it! While it is a bit salty, the fresh lemon taste is completely preserved. I added a finely diced rind to a salad and loved the burst of flavor. I decided this was definitely a condiment I wanted chillin' in my fridge for spontaneous cooking experiments.

Unfortunately, after what was probably more than two weeks at room temp, my jar went from a bright lemon scent to... not so bright. Perhaps my lemons weren't well scrubbed before brining, or perhaps the fork I used to remove a rind was not clean enough, or some other variable I can't think of. Given the sheer quantity of salt I added, it's a miracle anything managed to grow in there!

[Um, Maria, if you look at your own picture, your lemons are CLEARLY not covered in lemon juice. Maybe THAT was your problem, Genius! And why the heck didn't you put them in the fridge after tasting them the FIRST time? You're not the brightest crayon in the box, are you?]

I hate when I yell at me, it's so degrading.

Either way, these went from yum to yuck and I had to dump the whole jar. Swallow sadness. I want to try this again, but next time make sure everything is sterile. Also, instead of shaking the jar regularly, which shouldn't be necessary if everything's well covered by juice, I may try adding a layer of olive oil to the top. That ought to seal out air pretty well. I'm trying to brine the lemons, not ferment them, after all! I read this tip on the blog and it's worth a try!

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