If you break into my house and raid the fridge – you’re apt to be painfully disappointed, let alone painfully injured when I smack you with the heal of my boot. I pretty much just have shelves full of condiments. If its a sauce, a pickle, something you can schmear on a hunk of bread – I’ve got it… and if I don’t have it, I can make it.
Case in point – Preserved Lemons.
Now, there are some things in life that I am carelessly loose with my money on. But, a jar of salted lemons isn’t a thing that I am interested in paying a honking $25.00 for – not when I can make them…. and make a lot of them… and give the extras away as “GIFTS”… and it cost me a fraction of what one measly jar costs. It’s a WIN/WIN/WIN kind of day all around for me there.
Preserved Lemons are used in a variety of preparations from Moroccan to Greek to Turkish, and can be used just about anywhere you would want to use capers. And, depending on your own spice blend, can be used as just a table condiment for most strong fishes.
What you will need:
1 Large Bag of Medium sized Lemons
1 Box of Kosher Salt
1 Jar whole Bay Leaves
1 Small Jar Whole Cloves
1 Jar Cinnamon Sticks
1 1-Gallon pressure sealed glass container (it’s like one of those pressure sealed Mason Jars – only bigger)
A Reamer – the glass citrus juicer, like your mom used to have
- Cut 5 lemons in half and ream – strain out the seeds and reserve the juice for later
- On the remainder of the lemons, Cut the lemons from the stem end towards the nipple end 3/4 of the way – twice to give you a lemon cut in quarters, but still attached at the nipple.
- Sterilize the large glass storage container with boiling water
- Start layering by putting a 1/2″ layer of kosher salt on the bottom of the jar
- Next, open a lemon in your hand and fill the cut opening with kosher salt. Its best to do this over a large non metal bowl to catch the excess salt.
- Once the lemon is filled, crush it down into the salt layer in the container. Continue doing this until you have a complete layer on the bottom of the jar.
- Next, add 1 Bay Leaf, 3 Cloves, and 1 Cinnamon Stick to the top of the layer.
- Repeat the salt layer, lemon layer and spice layer until the jar is filled to the top with lemons.
- Make sure you crush each lemon down into the jar as you pack them, you want to make sure you squeeze as much of the juice out as you can – and flatten them down so they will accept the salt and spices as they cure.
- When the jar is full, add the retained juice from earlier to fill the jar to the seal. If, by any chance, you do not have enough juice to fill, add a little water to complete it.
- Once you have everything in – seal the jar and turn it upside down, and store it in a cool dark place, but not the fridge.
- For the next 20 days, open the container every 5 days – squish down the lemons…carefully….. and invert the jar.
- At the end of the 20 days, your lemons are ready to use and pack.
Packing your Preserved Lemons:
If you use those flip top glass jars … the ones with the rubber seal – your lemons will pack, store and ship for anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months.
If you know how to heat process them (I’m talking about canning) they will last anywhere from 3 months to 6 months well, and up to 12 months fairly well… although they do tend to get mushier and lose color a bit, but I find it is just as good for any cooking preparation.
- Open the big container
- Carefully dump all the lemons and juice into a large non metal bowl
- You will notice that the texture of the fruit has changed dramatically, they will be more tender than a fresh lemon, so be very careful when handling then, otherwise you’ll just end up with a bunch of bits to stuff in jars.
- pack the lemons into the smaller jars… pressing them down lightly as you go.
- as with before, pack them in layers.
- Take 1 bay leaf a couple of cloves and a cinnamon stick and wedge them down in the jar between the fruit and the side of the jar, so that they show from the outside.
- Fill each jar, pressing lightly as you go until they are filled to about 1″ from the top
- scoop up some of the reserved liquid from the bowl, (its going to be very thick and a little slimy feeling) and fill the jars the rest of the way up.
- Jiggle the jars a bit to settle the juice down in between the fruits
- Seal the jars up and you’re set!
- If you are hot processing them, refer to standard processing practices, but process them for no more than 10 minutes. Seal and store.
We’ll get to what you can do with them later!
A couple of variations on the spices:
Instead of the Cloves and Cinnamon, try:
Thyme and Oregano (fresh)