Whether you use Meyer, or another lemon, a jar of preserved lemons in the refrigerator can be a culinary lifesaver. When your “dish” is a little dull, a few slices of the lemon rind and a drizzle of the oil they are packed in can add the just the zest you need. They are so versatile, meat, fish, chicken and desserts can all be gilded with their flavor. The pulp can be used to bring soups, sauces and bloody mary’s to life.
The process of preserving citrus marries the tangy flavor of the citrus oil with the deep green flavor of olive oil; those flavors are enhanced and maintained with kosher salt. Also, the process turns tough, tart rinds into mellow, tender ribbons.
Preserved lemons can be purchased in gourmet food stores, but we’ve been disappointed in the past with rancid tasting oils, and dull citrus flavor (because they were too old or were cooked too long). It’s so easy to do yourself, giving you full control over the choice of fruit, oils, and storage methods.
Preserved lemons are a popular ingredient in North African cuisine. I’ll never forget the first time I had them, it was the most simple dish, made spectacular by the potent flavor of preserved citrus slices. We were on safari in Africa. For lunch one day the chef made grilled, whole trout. The whole fish preparation looked beautiful enough, but after a few bites, I realized there was much more to this meal! The cavity of the fish was lined with slices of preserved lemon rind, fresh tomatoes and a drizzle of the oil. So simple, so delicious. Of course, I have added this dish to my repertoire and it has become one of my favorite dishes to cook on a stone over the grill.
Any lemons (or limes) can be preserved in this way, and they will last for a year in the refrigerator. Citrus fruits are at their peak during the winter months. So, when you see some beautiful lemons, why not pick up a few extra to preserve? In our next post we will cover a completely different method of citrus preservation, with limes.
This recipe is from The Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl, this is one of my favorite cooking “bibles”
Gourmet’s Moroccan-Style Preserved Lemons
Makes 48 pieces, Active time: 15 minutes, Start to finish: 5 days (includes marinating).
2-1/2 – 3 pounds lemons
2/3 cup kosher salt
¼ cup olive oil
Special equipment: a 6-cup jar with a tight fitting lid
Blanch 6 lemons in boiling water for 5 minutes; drain. When cool enough to handle, cut each lemon into 8 wedges and discard seeds. Since the Meyer lemons are smaller, we cut them into 4 wedges.
Toss with kosher salt in a bowl, then pack, along with salt, into jar. I did layers of lemon, heavily sprinkled with the salt.
Add enough juice to jar to cover lemons and screw on lid.
Let lemons stand at room temperature, shaking gently once a day, for 5 days. I kept the jar on a plate and just turned it over each day.
After 5 days, pour in enough olive oil to cover the lemons and refrigerate.
We used a clamp-top Le Parfait jar – they are available in Splendid Items (via Amazon), as is The Gourmet Cookbook.