Preserved Lemons, two ways
Makes about a pound of preserved lemons, good for many recipes for a very long time
There are a few ways to go about preserving lemons, and here are two for the impatient foodie or the traditionalist with time on their side.
Preserved lemons taste awesome: salty, briny, tart with hints of mellow lemon aroma. Just a little finely minced preserved lemon peel goes a long way. They add a special depth to Middle Eastern foods, hearty stews and a special bite to salads and vegetables.
The fast track lemons will get you a decent substitute for use with a day, but either of these lemons can go one for many, many months packed away in a jar. While some recipes don’t call for refrigeration, it’s okay to store these in the fridge…they’ll continue to develop more character and intensity. After about 3 months your preserved lemons will change their texture, becoming somewhat gooey and viscous. That’s okay! Just rinse away the goo, discard the pulp (or throw it back into the jar to juice up the remaining lemons), and mince the rind as fine as possible. Because you’re eating the outside of the lemon, do try and find organic lemons especially for this recipe.
I’m a fan of food writer Diane Rossen Worthington’s method for preserving lemons for the impatient foodie: Freezing lemons helps soften the cell walls of the rind, not unlike long process of preserving does. Out of the freezer the yellow color deepens and the rind has absorbed the salt, making them ready to add to most any dish for that special salty sour pinch. These lemons are ready to use after their deep freezing but benefit from additional rest in the fridge; if you don’t end up using them within a week pack into a large glass jar as directed for Slow Down Preserved Lemons.
12 hour freezer lemons
lb. small, thin-skinned organic lemons (about 6-7 lemons)
½ cup lemon juice
Kosher salt, about 1/2 cup
Firmly roll each lemon a few times on a hard surface; remove any tough stem nubs from ends. Use a sharp knife to slice each lemon into quarters but stop about ½ inch from the end; you’ll want the quarters to remain connected on the bottom. Stuff as much salt into the center of each lemon as possible and rub it into the cut areas, making sure to completely coat the lemons with salt. Place lemons, any remaining salt, lemon juice, cloves and bay leaf into a 1 gallon plastic zip top bag. Press out all the air from the bag and seal; if desired wrap in another bag to prevent any leaking. Give lemons a few good squeezes and freeze for 12 hours.
When ready to use a lemon, remove from the freezer and let thaw. To speed the process place securely zipped bag in a bowl of hot water. To use a lemon gently rinse with water and remove the seeds and most of the pulp. The softened, preserved rind is the part that’s used.
Slow down preserved lemons
A more traditional recipe for preserved lemons done the slowest of slow foods way possible. The actual number of lemons is more of a guideline: first find yourself a large wide mouth jar (1 liter is my favorite size) then estimate how many small lemons can be packed inside.
1 lb. small, thin-skinned organic lemons (about 6-7 lemons)
½ cup lemon juice
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt, about 3/4 cup
Prepare and salt lemons as directed for freezer lemons, except pack lemons firmly into a clean wide mouth jar and pour lemon juice over lemons. Twist the lid firm on and leave in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks, occasionally turning the jar to re-distribute the juices. After 2 weeks place in the fridge and continue as directed.
To use a preserved lemon, tear off a section and brush away the salt. Remove the pulp and seeds; I like to squeeze the pulp once more and return the juices to rest of the lemons. Discard the pulp (it’s tough and not so flavorful), and mince the softened rind and finely as possible for use in recipes. After 3 months the lemon juice may appear murky and the lemon skins have a jelly-like texture; that’s perfectly fine, just rinse in cool a little cool water before using.
In addition to the bay leaves, feel free to add 6-8 cloves (the spice), a teaspoon of cayenne pepper or a few cinnamon sticks to the jar while packing in the lemons.