So I was waiting for the lemons to come from San Francisco, then they came, and this morning I preserved about a pound of them. In case you are not familiar with preserved lemons (which are basically pickled) they are a sort of sweet-sour-salty and quite lemony sort of spice/condiment that can be used in the same way one would use garlic or any other strong flavoring. You can slice them thin and use them to top fish before broiling, add to soups or stews to sharpen the flavor, cut into tiny pieces to brighten cous cous or other grains or small pastas…I am actually wondering what ice cream would be like with maybe ginger and little pieces of preserved lemon. If you want to more about preserved lemons, look here or here.
After deciding to preserve about half my lemons, I found a recipe in Judy Roger’s The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. It was a little more complex in terms of spices than some recipes I had found (which really only call for lemons and brine) which intrigued me, in addition to which I have never made anything using that particular cookbook that was not superb. Labor intensive, but superb.
So here’s the recipe:
(Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rogers)
- 1 1/2 pounds lemons
- 2-3 quarts plus 2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- a few whole, black, peppercorns
- a few coriander seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- a few tablespoons mild tasting olive oil
Bring the 2-3 quarts boiling water to a boil and add lemons. Let simmer for about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Pack into jars that have “shoulders” to keep the fruit submerged. You can cut the lemons into wedges to make an easier fit. (Note: I put all of my lemons in the same jar, because the brine mixture contains only one bay leaf and one Cinnamon stick, and I thought I would get very uneven flavor results if some lemons were in the jar with only one or the other, or neither. Also, I did quite a lot of cutting of the lemons, both to make them fit into the jar and to allow the brine to permeate every possible surface I could create).
Combine the 2 cups water, salt, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, coriander, and bay leaf in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cool slightly.
Pour over prepared lemons to cover completely. (Mine didn’t and I had to do a bit more cutting to allow the lemon pieces to compact below the surface of the brine). Coat the surface with olive oil, and screw on the lid(s).
Age lemons for about 4 weeks in a cool, dark spot.
Note: Always use clean tongs or a fork, not your fingers to remove the lemons from the jar. Taste a sliver. Rinse briefly under cool water if they seem intolerably salty. Refrigerate after opening.