Monday, 16 February 2015

Preparing Preserved Lemons

It probably seems like the 11th apartment is turning into a food blog lately; I assure you it's not, and I will be continuing the crafts and larger projects in the near future. But over the past two weeks, it has been SO COLD here that it just seems natural to hunker down and bake cookies!

The good news is that I'm currently searching kijiji for a cheap old dresser to refinish, so you can count on seeing some posts of stripping, prepping, painting and staining wood in the weeks to come. But for now (and while the Toronto temperature remains at a torturous -20, during the daytime, I don't even want to tell you how cold it is walking home from work at midnight) I've been in the kitchen trying out new things and trying to keep from freezing.

This week I'm happy to share an easy how-to: 10 simple steps to preparing preserved lemons. Preserved lemons are a North African and Middle Eastern specialty; their salty, citrusy taste is not only a wonderfully unique compliment to chicken and fish dishes, but the preserved Meyer lemons bring a fresh, exotic flavour that truly captures the essence of Mediterranean cooking.

Preserved lemons can be made with regular lemons, but it is best to make them using Meyer lemons. Meyer lemons are sweeter and more aromatic then regular lemons, and they have a much softer, smoother, and thinner outer peel. And since the peel is the edible component once the preserving process is complete, the soft peel and pleasing taste make them perfect for preserving. 

Preserved lemons are very easy to prepare. In fact, the prep time for one jar is under 15 minutes. Here are my ten easy steps in pictures (followed by full written instructions):

1. Gather supplies: salt (kosher or sea salt), meyer lemons, glass jar with lid. Wash lemons well to remove food grade wax. Wash and sterilize jar. (Easy sterilization method, fill jar 1/4 full with water, microwave on high until water boils). 

2. Place enough salt in jar to cover the bottom.

3. Cut the nub end of each lemon.

4. Quarter lemons lengthwise, leaving each lemon intact at it's base end. 

5. Spoon a large spoonful of salt into a lemon.

6. Place lemon into the jar, add another large spoonful of salt.

7. Press or squeeze the lemon to remove some of the juice.

8. Repeat steps 5,6,7 with remaining lemons until the jar is full. 
Basically, just stuff salt into each lemon, place in jar, add more salt, squeeze out juice.

9. When the jar is full (a pint sized mason jar will reach capacity with only about 3 lemons), add a final spoonful of salt, and if the juice does not cover all the lemons, squeeze in extra juice (it's a good idea to have an extra lemon on hand for this purpose).

10. Wipe jar rim and secure the lid.  Store jar in a cool, dark place (the fridge is fine, but not necessary) and wait 30 days. It is a good idea to rotate the jar from time to time, to make sure that all the lemons are submerged in the liquid at least most of the time). 

Tips and Tricks

- there is no such thing as too much salt, use it liberally

- weck jars are the best jars to use, as they don't allow for any space (air) between the lid and fruit and this causes the lemons to remain completely submerged in the salty liquid

- any fruit that rises above the salt/lemon juice solution will not cure properly and make discolour

- upon opening the jar after the 30 days, if there is brown fruit, just remove it; the remaining lemons are still completely safe to use

And that's it! Preserved lemons are very easy to make. The hardest part is finding the elusive Meyer lemons (they are in season during our Canadian winter, January - March), and waiting the 30 days!

Watch the 11th for a follow up post on how to use your preserved lemons!

1 comment:

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