I have been on a real citrus kick lately. Maybe it is the season, but I have been going through a lot of lemons and limes. For the last couple of weeks I have been juicing close to nearly 40 limes, only to pour a bit of the juice into smoothies or weekend cocktails. The same goes with lemons. As I was juicing the lemons into a smaller sized mason jar, it occurred to me that instead of juicing them, I should create some preserved lemons!
You might have never seen preserved lemons, yet, as they are typically not used on a regular basis in American cooking. Or, maybe they are and many of us just never know. The preserved lemon is commonly used in Moroccan or African cuisine, and let’s face it, many of us are not eating that cuisine in the states on a regular basis.
The preserved lemon is a thing of beauty, and it can be used in a lot of different dishes, not just Moroccan or African. If preserved right, and long enough, the lemons have an intense citrus smell and and taste which enhances most any dishes that require a bit of lemon.
- 7 whole lemons, rinsed and patted dry
- Kosher salt, approximately 1 tbsp per lemon
- 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
- 1 tbsp fennel seed
- Additional lemon juice
- Wide mouth, pint sized canning jars
Begin by cleaning your lemon by washing it in water, then pat them dry. Take your knife and take off any of the knobby end parts. Run your knife, lengthwise down the middle of the lemon, leaving about 1/2 inch at the bottom. Turn 90 degrees, and do the same. You pretty much have a quartered lemon but not cut all of the way through. Repeat with the remaining lemons.
Mix your salt, fennel seeds, and peppercorns.
Add about a tablespoon, or so, of the salt mixture to the bottom of the canning jar. Take a lemon and open it up a bit, and begin rubbing a tablespoon or so of the salt mixture all over the inside of the lemon. Take it and smash it down into the mason jar. Repeat with the second lemon. Two lemons fit into my canning jar. Depending on the size of your lemons, you might have more or less. Once smashed, roll a lemon on the counter, and apply enough pressure to extract the juices. Cut the lemon in half, and use your hand juicer, or hands and squeeze as much juice out of the lemon into the canning jar to nearly fill the top. This takes about two lemons per jar.
Repeat with a second canning jar. Add any remaining salt mixture to the top of the open canning jars, seal, and give a shake. Let these sit on your counter at room temperature for about 2 days, shaking the mixture each day.
Place in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks before using.
When you are ready to use some of the lemons, open the can, remove the softened lemons, and rinse under cold water. You can use the pulp in sauces if you would like, or stuff it inside of a chicken before roasting, otherwise, remove the pulp and slice the lemon peel into thin slices to be used in sauces, salads, rice, or whatever you can think of that would use that wonderful lemon and salt flavor. Give it a try. It’s something new!