Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

I started making my own preserved lemons after watching an episode of Ruth Reichl's Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth which ran on our PBS station a few years ago.  It was during the episode where she traveled to Morocco that I was schooled on this tangy condiment.  I use them a lot in salads and in chicken dishes.  They are so easy to make and it's nice to have them at your fingertips.


This is how I learned to make them.

The containers.

Select your container or containers, depending on how much you plan to make.  I prefer glass jars (clamp/gasket or Ball jars).  Wash and sterilize them.  I scrub mine by hand then boil them in a large pot of water for about 10 minutes.



Unless I am making gifts, I make just one jar to keep in the fridge.  Once my jar is clean and dry I toss a little kosher salt into the bottom of it.


The lemons.

Any lemon will do.  I prefer Meyer Lemons with their deep yellowy-orange skin that's thin and fragrant.  It's juice is also a little sweeter and less acidic than a true lemon.  Select enough lemons to cram the jar full.  You'll want to buy extra lemons for juicing as well. 


Scrub your lemons clean.  I'm going to slip in a plug here for a product I use in my kitchen daily.

This is Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Soap.  I use the peppermint but it comes in Almond, Spearmint and I believe one or two more fragrances.  I wash my vegetables and fruits in this stuff.  It even removes the slimy what-ever-it-is that they slather on cucumbers.  You can also bathe in this and brush your teeth with it, but I relegate it to the kitchen.  The label also makes for some interesting reading.


Cut each lemon through the center 3/4 of the way through making sure to keep intact.  Turn a half turn and make another slice 3/4 of the way through the lemon.



Your lemon should look like this.  You'll have a quartered lemon that is still attached at the base.


Have a bowl full of kosher salt hand and start packing your lemon with the salt.  As you finish packing a lemon, place it in the jar.


Repeat with the rest of the lemons until you have crammed your jar full.  As you stuff the lemons in the jar, you will want them packed in really tight and compress them so you release juices.


Over time, juices will naturally begin to release themselves but you will want to juice several lemons and pour the juice into the jar.


I also added a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme I had on hand.


Some people like to store theirs on a shelf in a dark cook closet but I prefer the refrigerator.  Every two to three days for the first week, open the jar and compress the lemons, releasing more juice.  After a week, if the lemons are not completely submerged in the juices , juice another lemon or two and add the juice to the jar.

Walk off and forget about your lemons.  I don't even think about them for at least two months.

How to use your preserved lemons
  • remove the soft rind and mince it to add to salads
  • separate the rind and pulp and smear all over a roasting chicken and throw some inside the chicken too.
  • the rinds can be used in sauces (whole or chopped up)
  • you can use your lemons to flavor any savory dish
  • decorate your jar with a pretty ribbon and a homemade label and give a jar as a gift
I'd like to know how you use yours!

Moroccan Preserved Lemons
Your ingredients will vary depending on the size of your jar, the size of the lemons and how many jars you plan to make.  For the sake of giving you a guideline, I'm giving you the ingredients I used to fill a 2 cup gasket and hinge jar.

Ingredients:
8 Meyer Lemons, divided
1 cup Kosher Salt (you won't use all of this but it's better to have alot on hand than not enough!)
Fresh herb sprigs (optional)

Mise en Place:
  • Scrub jar and boil (without the gasket on) in a large pot of water (enough water to cover jar) for about 10 minutes - dry thoroughly
  • wash lemons and set aside
  • squeeze lemon juice from 2 of the lemons
  • pour salt in small mixing bowl
Method:
Drop a good pinch of salt in the bottom of the jar.

Slice 6 of the lemons in quarters 3/4 of the way through - all 4 sections should stay intact.

Take fingerfuls of salt and pack into the lemon.  Place into the jar.  Repeat with each lemon and as you pack them into the jar, use pressure to compress the lemons together and exude juices.  Once you have packed your jar full (I packed 6 lemons into my jar) slip in whatever herb you like (if you choose to use an herb at all).  Pour the lemon juice that you squeezed from the 2 lemons into the jar.

Replace gasket onto the jar lid the clamp the jar closed.  Place in refrigerator.  Every 2 to3 days, open the jar and give the lemons a squeeze to exude more juice.  After a week, if the lemons are not submerged in juice, add more freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Forget about your lemons and a couple of months and let nature take its course.

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