It’s winter and citrus is in season – I’ve always thought it odd that such a ‘sunny’ fruit is freshest when it’s cold out. Last weekend was the Annual Kumquat Festival. I missed it because it was unseasonably cold, and I’m a thin-blooded Floridian! But today, I’m back in the kitchen,… Earlier this week I’d made a chicken dish with lemon zest and capers. It was great. Then I’d thought this would be good with olives and preserved lemons… that is if I had preserved lemons! And, no, nobody that I know would actually have those in their pantry either. Oh, look there’s a great big bag o’ lemons that I’d just bought at the warehouse club. (I’ve been going thru a lot of lemons lately) Hmmmm, come ‘ere I’ve got plans for you! Well, I HAD plans and now they’ve gone way off track. (oh, look a chicken….) But just how do you preserve a lemon? I know there’s salt involved, or was it sugar? Let ‘s go ask the Interweb! There are a ton of sites showing how to do this, all of which were stunningly simple. But I also wanted to know if anybody does it with sugar. I kept searching, then I stumbled on a site for a restaurant that has a cooking school and curious little things on their website. At http://www.cafeclock.com they had 3 ways to do lemons, the standard preserved lemon, a spiced preserved lemon ( and when I get some dried chiles I’ll be doing that one too), and lastly a candied lemon that they note “These lemons are Jewish in origin and aren’t generally something you see in the preserves stalls of the medina, although you might seem them in the Mellah.”,… What? Where is this restaurant?! Certainly not NewYork, with a comment like that. Oh, look a directions/Map page… MOROCCO!? Wow – this really is the world-wide-web (I forgot) So, these are really authentic recipes!!! I love the Web!
Grab your bag o’ lemons and lets have some fun. Best of all this isn’t an expensive experiment, so if you don’t like them toss ’em. But later I’ll show you how to use them.
First Clean those lemons. Oh, you haven’t been doing that – ewwwww! You don’t know where that zest has been! Get a veggie wash or just a brush and scrub them under some hot/warm water (melts the wax). Then they’ll be squeaky clean, literally.
Separate them by the recipe (4 for each), and prep. Also get some jars and lids into a boiling water bath to sterilize while you work with the fruit.
Café Clock Moroccan Preserved Lemons:
Kosher or Sea Salt
Lemon juice if needed (fresh)
Step 1: Cut the top and bottom of the lemon flat. The cut in a quarter fashion, but not all the way thru. I squeeze some of the salt into the jar to make getting the salt in a bit easier. Then I pack salt inside them lemon and shove in the jar.
Step 2: Yes, I actually got 4 lemons in that seemingly tiny jar. Only after it sat a while (until I was done with the other recipes), did I top off with some extra lemon juice and lid the jar. The salt makes the lemons break down very quickly. Guess what – that’s it ! Preserved lemons – d o n e.
Keller Style Lemons:
OK, these are the preserved lemons that the Gastronomic God Thomas Keller (‘aaaaaahhh’) does. He uses them in recipes from is cookbook ‘AdHoc’ (which I don’t have – yet) Again, super simple. I changed it up a bit to make them pretty for the jar.
Step 1: Get together 1/2 cup kosher salt, and 1/2 cup sugar and mix. Now slice the lemons in 1/8″ slices, very thin – careful don’t cut yourself – there are lemons involved OUCH!
Step 2: Layer in the jar a sprinkle of salt/sugar mix, then slice of lemon, another sprinkle,…. And so on. I never had to add juice to this. As they piled up and sat the juices just oozed out. Mr. Keller layers them in a flat dish and they sit, but I just couldn’t resist stacking them like this. Although, that meant I had plenty of the salt/sugar mix left over. Now you know I can’t throw it away. Hmmmm, I’m thinking about a ‘scrub’…but that’s another Blog.
Both of these lemon recipes ask that they simply set out on the counter for a few days to a week to cure. (Madame Curie’s cabinet hard at work)
Last, but not least Café Clock ‘Candied Lemons‘ ;
3 1/2 cups sugar (yes – they’re c a n d i e d)
3 Cups Water
Step 1: Take the 4 lemons and get in some water and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let them cool in that water. Go do something else,…like prep that chicken in the background for dinner (and yet another Blog post). OK, now they’re cool (make sure those jars are still good to go).
Step 2: Take 2 cups of the soaking water (you’ll see it’s lemony) and add in the sugar. Bring to a boil for 15 min. Careful, a low boil is good. Now go and cut the lemons into the same quartered fashion as the regular preserved lemons. I cut mine in a bowl because they were soft and juicy.
Step 3: After the sugar is ready, add the lemons and the juice from the bowl. Continue to boil for another 30 min, until the skin/peel is tender.
Step 4: Spoon the lemons out and place in a sterilized jar. Continue to boil the syrup for another 20 min on very low heat. Then add that syrup to the jars and lid. I had leftover syrup, so I jarred it too. Then I tasted it – OMG! Lemon-Honeylike-Syrupy Magnificence!!! I want just that! I kept out a tiny bit that didn’t fit in the jar and it’s going over some vanilla frozen yogurt tonight. I don’t think it’ll be around long enough for a photo – sorry. I know my lemon drop martinis will never be the same! No, this is way better than the Lemon Lightning Marmalade I subjected my Christmas dinner guests to. In, it’s defense its good too, but only ON something like a biscuit. By itself on a spoon it’s for someone who lost a bet! (sorry Shirley).
So here they are – a bag o lemons some salt, sugar and time. How pretty. How delicious? I have to wait too, like a week! Ugh, the candied one’s I’m not to touch for 10 days. There’s always next week’s blog. You’ll just have to stay tuned.