Ever since I’ve been reading Ottolenghi’s repertoire, I have been intrigued by the idea of making preserved lemons. It must partly be because it is not easy to buy them (I have never seen them in any deli or supermarket) as well as their attractive looks.
Because they look so beautiful and are so special, I am happy to give these to friends over the holidays.
With the seasons changing, the lemons on the shelves are little on the smaller side, but the winter season is supposed to be the time when citrus fruits are at their juiciest and best. It is such a nice idea to have so much vitamin C stocked up in your kitchen cupboard.
There are different techniques used for making preserved lemons.
Most important is to add enough salt and lemon juice to make sure that all bacteria are killed off during the course of the preservation. The lemons need to be completely submersed in the liquid and all they need more is time.
More practical: the often suggested method of ‘segmenting’ the lemon open and inserting salt makes a very messy episode in my book. With salt and lemon juice spritzing around when trying to put them into the jar (read: into eyes), I much more prefer this way of halving the lemons and simply stacking them in their jar.
Ottolengi tends to add a layer of olive oil on top of the jar, but I have found that that is not necessary.
The lemons are said to age like a good whiskey (read, patience is needed;)) and will be ready after at least four weeks. These will taste excellent sliced up in herbed butter, guacamole, couscous, in combination with rich meat or fish such as lamb, salmon or smoked mackarel.
I hope you find it a nice addition to your kitchen as well.:)Preserved Lemons
makes four pint jars
- 20 lemons (organic and unwaxed)
- 20 tablespoons rocky sea salt
- 4 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns
- 8 bay leaves
Juice 10 lemons, and proceed with washing the 10 remaining ones.
Make sure you properly wash the lemons as you will eat the skin in the end.
Sterilize the jars by rinsing the pots and lids with boiling water, and try not to touch the insides.
Prepare the 10 remaining lemons by slicing off the tops and bottoms, just enough to remove the ‘green’ ends. Half the lemon and remove the pits.
Sprinkle a tablespoon of salt on the bottom of the jar, as well as a teaspoon of pepper corns.
Place half a lemon in the jar, with the flesh side up. Sprinkle another tablespoon of salt on the lemon and proceed until the jar is filled. I was able to fit 5 lemon halves in each jar. To do so, down if needed, but don’t squeeze the lemons completely. Place the bay leaves between and around the lemons. Fill up the jar with the lemon juice until they are completely submersed.
Replacing the freshly pressed lemon juice with bottled lemon juice is not an option as that might lead to carbonation (according to the interwebs it might lead to fizzy lemons). It is possible to replace the lemons with limes, which might be a really pretty sight, but which might not be as good as their skin is much thinner.
Different sources give different instructions with regards to storage and the time needed to preserve. In my view, the best way is to immediately transfer this jar to the fridge and keep it there. The lemons will be ready in 4 weeks but will continue to improve after that.