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Preserved lemons - easy to make at home...!

We had quite a good crop of lemons on our tree at the moment despite the annual stink bug plague! I have been making a bit of lemon butter and the odd lemon drink but we still had plenty on the tree. I had heard of preserved lemon but had no idea how to make it and if I did, how I would use it. There was a recipe on the last bag of salt I bought and plenty of variations on line. I figured it was going to be more of an art than a science - and since I had plenty of lemons, I had enough to play with and see what results I got!

Here's what I did...

 
There is a few ways to cut your lemons for this recipe. I chose the straight quarters but you can just cut the lemon into quarters without cutting the lemon all the way through. I decided that I probably wouldn't use much at a time so I chose small quarters or sixths depending on the size of my lemons.

 
I tidied up my lemons so that my pieces only had flesh and skin. I cut all the pith and ends off. Then I covered each piece thoroughly in salt that I put in a measuring cup to give me an idea of how much salt I was using.

 
As I covered each piece in salt I stuffed them into a jar. I tried to make them sit skin side out and make it look pretty - but that turned out to be harder than it looked. Because I was experimenting, I popped in the odd lime, just to see what they would be like as well.

 
Fill the jar to the top with your salt encrusted lemons and limes.

 
Juice enough extra lemons to cover all the lemons in the jar with juice adding enough salt to make about 1 cup. I used an old Macona coffee jar so that would be about 500mls with one cup of salt in total then filled with the lemon juice.

 
I added a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, cloves and a chilli. I think lots of pickling spices would be nice to use but once I tasted the final product, I decided that the spices etc are for decorative purposes only! I could only taste lemon and salt! There seems to be a lot of salt in this image but over time it seems to have dissolved and there is only a little left undissolved on the bottom of the jar.

 
Depending on what recipe you are using to make preserved lemons, you can leave it on the bench to ferment for a few days before refrigerating or pop it straight in the fridge. I left mine on the bench figuring anything that high in salt and acid wasn't going to go off quickly and also because I forgot it was still there... You don't really need a recipe, just salt, lemons and a jar... maybe a few spices to pretty it all up.
 
However, the lemon needs to be fully submerged or it may grow mould on the parts exposed to the air. I found that they sank if you kept poking at them or left a fork in the jar holding the top ones down.
 
It was easy enough to prepare and letting it sit for a couple of weeks wasn't too onerous, but trying to figure out what on earth you use it for was a bit more difficult! I found recipes that used preserved lemon and they were all quite exotic to me. I was quite cautious with its use at first, restricting myself to dishes that required just the rind cut from the flesh - almost as if you were just using zest.
 
Then last night I made a lemon salmon spaghetti and used the whole preserved lemon quarter and it was fantastic!
 
 
Lemon Salmon Pasta
Serves 2

Ingredients
 200g thin spaghetti
¼ cup light cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon roughly chopped dill
1 tablespoon salted capers
180g smoked salmon fillet, flaked

Method

Cook spaghetti in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until al dente. Drain and return to the pan.

Add cream, lemon juice and mustard to pasta, toss to coat.

Toss through dill, capers and salmon, and serve immediately.

I used the preserved lemon quarter, skin and flesh, chopped finely instead of the lemon juice and it was really, really good. Next time I would use two or three lemons as this taste really appeals to us.This has given me the idea that if it needs salt and lemon, then this is the product to use. Even though I put pepper corns and chillies into the mix - I can't taste them at all. Its overwhelmingly, just lemon and salt.

When I pull  a piece of lemon out of the jar it is no longer firm but quite jelly like. Its really easy to cut the skin from the flesh and pith if you want to. Some recipes just want the skin, other say use the whole thing. If the salt is too much, you can rinse or soak some of it out by running it under a tap or soaking it in a bowl of water for a few minutes. Depends on what you are cooking. I wouldn't add salt until you have added the preserved lemon in case it is too much.

Something that I thought was interesting was that the limes went yellow! Now I have a jar full of uniformly yellow slices! I'm not sure why. I know that limes go yellow as they age and ripen (but we like them green) so I don't know if it was the acid, salt or time that turned them yellow. So I am unable to tell you what preserved limes are like cause I don't know which ones were limes to start with anymore!

Choose your jar LID carefully. The salt and acid rust lids that have exposed metal on them very quickly. Ones that are lined with food safe plastic seem to handle the acid and salt much better. I moved mine to a "pretty" wide mouth sugar jar and now the lid is rusty and I'm worried that the rust could leak into the jar and do bad things to my lemons... So I moved it back into a more practical but not so attractive jar with a plastic lined lid!

Let me know how you went!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for using excess produce and free preserving jars!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for home grown lemons and reusing a jar. Salt has got to be one of the cheapest pantry items in existence as well!
Time cost: About 1/2 an hour for my first jar. Quicker once you know what you are doing. Two weeks waiting time before they are ready to use.
Skill level: Cutting and packing!
Fun-ness: Yum Fun!

Comments

Lois said…
Interesting. I thought this could work for me because lemons dry out so quickly but I am very susceptible to ill effects after having anything with salt. Guess I'll continue to have to freeze mine. So glad you didn't lose all your lemons to the stinkbugs.
Practical Frog said…
Hmmmm... There is a huge amount of salt in this. That's why I don't put salt in the recipe until I have put the lemon in. Its very salty. What about dried lemon? Not sure how you would do it though.. I had never considered freezing them! How do you do that? In quarters? Juiced? Id be interested in finding out how you do that! - K x
Kim said…
Thanks for this post. I do lots of moroccan cooking and the recipes always ask for preserved lemons but I wasn't sure what they were. Can't wait to find a lemon tree and try this!!
Practical Frog said…
Its so easy to make and tastes really good! Let me know how you go! - K x
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