Sunday, August 12, 2012
Peerless Preserved Lemons
One of my foodie weaknesses are the delicious flavors of the East. The rich sweetness of dried fruits, the warm sensuality of the various spices and the bright punch of citrus and fresh herbs. One of my favorite ingredients are the beautiful and opulent citrons confits or preserved lemons.
These delicious beauties are lemons picked at their peak and preserved in salt and their own juices. They are used in dishes all over the world but most often are linked to Indian, Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine. In Cambodia there is an entire dish centered around these golden gems called Ngam nguv. It is a chicken soup using the whole preserved lemon, kafir lime leaves, cilantro, garlic and chili. It looks delicious and I hope some day to try it. Until then I have to settle with the hundreds of other delicious recipes that call for this beautiful and simple ingredient.
Now if you go to your local specialty food market you will find citrons confits will cost you a pretty penny and you won't get a lot for your money. Truthfully this is strange as the method of preservation is one of the simplest and oldest known to man. Preserved lemons are basically just lemons packed in salt.
What you will need:
2 - 1qt sterilized canning jars (or more of a smaller size jar if you prefer)
12-14 fresh medium lemons (I used about 6 per jar)
non-iodized salt, (I used Kosher) about 1/2 cup
To get started you will want to find the best quality lemons available to you. If that means just what the grocery store has on hand so be it but the better the quality of the lemon the better the quality of your end product. Make sure to wash them well but don't scrub hard enough that you loose the essential oils in the skin.
Next cut 10 of the lemons almost into quarters leaving just a bit of rind to hold them together. Spread each lemon open and generously coat with salt before packing into the sterilized canning jar. Repeat until you have just a half inch of head space left in the jar. I layer the jars like a trifle. Lemons, salt, more lemons and so on. Press the lemons down to release their own juices. If there is not enough juice to cover them completely juice one of the remaining lemons and ad the juice to the jar. Repeat with the second jar and remaining lemons.
Now comes the hard part. Set the jars in a window and wait. The jars should be rotated daily and given an occasional shake but they need to sit for a month before they are ready to use. These can be stored in your refrigerator for about six months.
It's as simple as that to have this delicious condiment to hand whenever you want it. Enjoy!