I feel like a lot of my posts start out describing how crazy I think Will is for wanting to make something. It’s kind of unfair of me to keep saying that because I think I’ve learned by now that he’s got a great barometer for cooking. Silly me. But you have to admit, when someone suggests lemons as the first they are ever going to try to preserve, you might give them a funny look, too. Blame it on Will’s interest in Middle Eastern, and more specifically Moroccan, foods. We have come across enough recipes that call for preserved lemons that it was finally time to breakdown and either buy or make them. We just so happened to have a few extra lemons on hand from a recipe that never got made, so we bought some more and figured “why not?” And off we went into preserving land.
I would imagine preserving lemons goes a little differently than preserving other things, but we plan to can and preserve in our future home/kitchen/life when we’re both done with grad school, so maybe I will be proven wrong. But lemon preserves seem to be able to have a slightly shorter preserving period than I anticipated, so maybe that’s where I’m coming from. I also don’t know anything about preserving (except lemons, now), so don’t take what I’m saying too seriously. Anywho. I think the hardest part of the preservation process was actually the sterilization of the Mason jar. We royally screwed that up on our first attempt and lost one of our poor jars to explosion in the pot. Fact: do NOT boil water and then put a glass jar in it. It will break. But once you know that lesson, you’re pretty good to go!
For preserved lemons, plan to give yourself about one months lead time before you want to use them and they can last up to four months sealed/unopened, if you really want to wait that long. We’re impatient and wanted our preserved lemons like, two months ago, so ours hung out in our fridge for just barely a month. And you know what? They were super tasty in the chicken dish we made them in (coming soon). I had not had a preserved lemon prior to this experiment, but I have to say I was a fan. Luckily we have most of our jar left, so bring on the Moroccan food! Maybe we can talk my mom into a lemon preserve turkey this Thanksgiving….
Cooking Notes: After reviewing several recipes, we selected this one from The Kitchn since we are new to the whole preserving thing. I think next time we may consider some of the extra steps in one of our Moroccan cookbooks. We chose to add a couple cinnamon sticks, cloves, and a few whole peppercorns, for flavor enhancement. Other options would have been bay leaves, coriander seeds or chili peppers. Preservers choice! Also, we recommend organic lemons since you ultimately will be eating the skin. Those few extra cents spent on the lemons might help you sleep better at night 🙂
Preserved Lemons (adapted from The Kitchn)
8-10 organic lemons
Extras: cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns
Begin by filling a very large pot with cool water. Place a clean 1 quart-sized, wide mouth Mason jar in the pot until it’s completely submerged (the lid should not be on). Slowly bring the water to a boil and allow to boil for 10 minutes. Turn heat off and leave the jars in the water. Once jars have cooled a bit, use stainless-steel tongs to remove jars from the water and place on clean towels. (Any additional instructions can be found on Martha Stewart’s website)
Scrub the lemons under running water to remove any dirt/impurities. Slice off the stem end and the tip end of each lemon. Starting at one end, cut the lemons in half lengthwise, stopping about 1/2 inch before you reach the bottom. Repeat the cut perpendicularly, but not all the way through, creating an “X” formation. The lemons should still be attached at the bottom by approximately 1/2 inch.
Sprinkle lots of salt on the inside and outside of the lemons. Hold them open with your fingers to really get the salt inside. Once all the lemons are salted, add about 2 tbsp of salt to the bottom of the sterilized jar. Place each lemon in the jar, pushing down on them and squeezing them to release some of the juice. Fill the jar up, leaving 3/4 inch headroom. The lemons should be completely submerged in juice (you can use juice from additional lemons that you won’t preserve, to assist, or just bottled lemon juice). Place any additional flavors inside the jar, such as cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, etc. Add 2 tbsp of salt to the top and seal the jar.
Let the jar sit at room temperature for 3-5 days. Each day, turn it upside down and shake it to distribute the salt and liquids. After several days of turning and shaking, place the jar in the refrigerator. If you remember, turn the jar upside down every other day or so (it’s okay if you forget). After one month, the lemons should be ready for their first use! When you use a lemon, rinse it thoroughly in water to remove excess salt, discard the seeds, and remove the flesh until you’re only left with rind.
Recipe: The Kitchn: Preserved Lemons