Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Easy Flavor Booster: Moroccan Style Preserved Lemons

Am trying to find some time to bury my toes in the sand. So please bear with a few reposts for the next couple of weeks. There will be some new material, but ...Happy Summer.

I have probably spent close to the price of a nice pair of Jimmy Choo's on jars of preserved lemons over the last 10 years. It's one of those things that are so easy to make at home, but the jars are so exotic, and the lemons such flavorful additions to all sorts of dishes that I really just had to share my recipe with you. Generations of good cooks in Morocco  make these regularly, and there are as many methods and recipes as there are cooks there. This one is very basic, you can search the web for countless more. My friend Amy took one look at the jar on my counter and told me "I need that recipe!".

When I have preserved lemons ready to use, I'll likely sneak them into anything I can: chicken or fish dishes, vegetable salads, marinated olives, they add a über lemony salty tang that is the absolute ultimate flavor booster. The major ingredients are lemons and kosher salt. The only other real ingredient is time, since it takes about a month for these to be ready to use. They'll keep a long time in the fridge after they ferment for a month, though. I like to add a few cloves and some broken cinnamon sticks. On occasion I add whole dried chili peppers, but since I have none left from last years garden, there are none in my current batch.

Please use organic lemons if you can, since you are eating the skin of preserved lemons. And kosher salt since it has no additives. I use the pulp and the skin generally of the preserved lemon, and just remove the seeds in things I will cook, but more often in salads and dressings, just the rind. Because they are really salty, always rinse them before using and scrape out the seeds, then mince or sliver finely. 

If you are at all into the fermenting scene, like me, you already know the basics of prepping your tools and jars, making sure everything is clean, clean, clean. I used a quart canning jar for this, sterilized in boiling water. Depending on the size of your lemons, you may need more or fewer lemons, or you may need just the juice of the last one or two to finish filling your jar. Consider keeping the largest lemon you have as the last one; you can use it to wedge into the mouth of the jar, under the shoulder to hold the rest in place. I write the date and contents right on the lid so I'll know when my lemony masterpiece is ready to eat.

Moroccan Style Preserved Lemons fermenting on my kitchen counter.

Moroccan Style Preserved Lemons

For a 1-quart standard canning jar

8-9 lemons, scrubbed
kosher salt
1-2 cinnamon sticks, broken
4-6 whole cloves.
1-2 whole dried hot chile peppers, opt.

 Pour a cup or so of kosher salt into a bowl. Put about a tablespoon of salt into the bottom of your jar and a clove and a bit of cinnamon stick. If your lemons have "knobs", trim them off so your lemons are perfect ovals or rounds. Stand a lemon up lengthwise, and slice it almost in half stopping about a half-inch up from the cutting board. Turn the lemon 90º, and do the same, making a cross cut, nearly but not quite cutting through so you have almost quartered it lengthwise. If you look down on a cut lemon it'll look like a 4-petaled blossom.

Pack a heaping tablespoon or so of kosher salt into the cut lemon and drop it into the clean jar. Do another, and then press down on the lemons with the handle of a wooden spoon to squeeze out as much juice as you can, drop in more spices, and a dried pepper if using. 

Continue layering salt filled lemons and spices, and pressing until the jar is full to the top, wedging in the last lemon. This should be your biggest lemon. Wedging in the last one helps keep them all in place under the salty juice.  Add another tablespoon of salt over the top and if the last lemon isn't covered with juice, squeeze out juice from your extra lemons so there is juice covering the lemons completely. Cap the jar with the sterilized lid, and leave at room temperature for a month, then refrigerate. Your  preserved lemons are ready to enjoy.

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