Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Recipe: Preserved Lemons and Limes

Even though I enjoy experimenting with different ferments, I felt a little strange about this one. For those that don't know, preserved lemons and limes are preserved in salt. Like most fermented foods, the color dulls and the liquid becomes cloudy.

But the peel also becomes softened. You can eat the peel.

As someone who finds the taste of lemons and limes to be a bit overwhelming, I thought about skipping this one.

But articles kept popping up about it. I saw a lovely article on NPR about preserved lemons and how they should be preserved. Phickle exclaimed that preserved lemons were gold and could be used in almost any dish, from Middle Eastern to Italian. But I think what really convinced me was when Food in Jars pureed the preserved lemons for a versatile lemon sauce.

Because while I don't make a lot of Middle Eastern cuisine or drink salty Thai lemonade, I could really use some lemon sauce on hand for recipes that call for lemon juice or lemon zest. Because I rarely have any on hand, and when I do buy lemons, I always end up wasting part of them.

So I headed down to the organic store to pick up some lemons. I decided to do limes while I was at it, which was a bad idea. It was snowing and freezing outside and while I was preparing the limes, I just really wanted to make guacamole and margaritas. (It should warm up soon, right?!)

Anyway, I highly recommend these! I finally tried the peel last night and it was surprisingly delicious. I don't know if I would munch on lemon peels as a snack, but I can definitely see myself slicing them and sticking them in pasta. I think at some point I'll blend everything into a paste, but for now I love the juice and the peels. I especially love that I have lemons and limes on hand now!

Of course you can use your preserved lemons anywhere you use regular lemons and lemon juice: in salad dressings, stews, dips, pastas, etc.

I wrote the recipe below for lemons, but it's the same for limes.

5 lemons, or however many will fit in your jar
1-3 more lemons, for the extra juice
Lots of sea salt

Place about a tablespoon of sea salt in the bottom of your jar.

Clean your lemons.

Slice the tops and bottoms off of the lemons.

Take a knife and cut an X shape into them about 3/4 of the way down - however be careful not to cut through the lemon entirely. Everything should still be connected.

Liberally salt the exposed flesh of the lemon. Place the salted lemon into the jar.

(In theory you should remove the seeds, but I gave up after removing a few. I can easily pick around them.)

Take a wooden spoon and gently mash the lemon in the jar. You're trying to juice the salted lemon and also make room for other lemons.

Repeat the above process, cramming as many lemons into the jar as you can.

Once your jar is full, squeeze the juice of the remaining lemons into it. You want the lemon peels underneath the juice.

Place a lid on your jar. Shake it once a day - and  remember to push the peels back under the lemon juice.

Leave it out for about a month (shaking it daily). The juice will thicken and begin to look cloudy. The peels will begin to soften and lose their bright color.

You can leave it out at room temperature or place it in the fridge if you'd prefer. If you leave it out, just remember to make sure that the lemon peels are covered.

And enjoy! You have lots of lemons on hand for quite awhile!

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