Preserving lemons

Another repost original Sept 2009 (to make sure all the preserved lemon material stays together)

Preserved lemons and limes

Preserved lemons and limes

After work today (all that marking ;) I needed some “making something” therapy. Dough for flat bread to eat with the beans in the slow cooker is rising quietly in the kitchen, and there is the joyful sight of a new jar of preserved lemons sitting quietly waiting.

Preserving lemons is real slow food. Alchemy at work as physical and chemical processes, that scientists may understand, but that most cooks seek simply to profit from, work at the lemons (and a few limes for extra zing). The process of sitting quietly in a dark place, marinating in salt and spices softening the nasty bitterness of the white pith extracting the unwanted tastes into the liquid, whilst, paradoxically at the same time transferring the intense zing of the zest to the whole. (I told you it is pure alchemy :)

In a few months time these citrus fruits will be ready for their turn in the slow cooker with chicken and olives…

If you have never preserved lemons, start tomorrow. Beg, borrow or buy some lemons (and ideally a few limes, 1 to 4 is fine). Cut them in quarters, press them down into a jar, witgh plenty of salt. Plenty might be a tablespoon depending on the size of your lemons. This is slow food, do not ask for exact recipes ;) In the jar you have probably put a cinnamon stick, some corriander seeds, a bay leaf or three, and if you must some chilli (other spices too are optional). Over the next few days (slow food remember) as the lemons sink gracefully into the brine, add more. When this process slows top up with oil, and seal the jar.

Wait a few months, hiding the jar in a dark corner so that you can be patient. In a few months, remember this is slow food ;) you can at last unite the lenons with the chicken and the olives in a dish that even lemonophobes and olive haters will enjoy and demand more of.

I’ll give you the recipe soon, as even slow foodies are somewhat impatient, and waiting is half the savour ;)

[If, when you return in a few months, you find black mold on the surface it just means that the oil did not completely cover the mix, scoop it off and pretend it never happened.]

HT: This post was inspired by thre realisation that we only have 1.5 jars left from the Christmas stock, and by Rachel Barenblat the Velveteen Rabbi.

Grilled sardines, with a warm potato and preserved lemon salad

Grilled sardines with warm potato and preserved lemon salad

Grilled sardines with warm potato and preserved lemon salad

Lunch on sabbatical is a great treat! Just taking a 45 min lunch break I can cook and eat delicious snacks like this :)

Thanks to the Aussie Butcher in Mt Roskill (who I am finding despite a supermarket -style shop is a good replacement for Better Butchers in Mt Eden Road, though I am still not enough of a “regular” to ask for special things yet, nor to discuss how I might cook my purchases like I did there) I have some frozen sardines :)

So I grilled them. (Yes, I probably should have brushed them with some very garlicky oil, but this is a quick lunch snack for one, and I had no garlicky oil handy – note to self: get some soaking quick :)

To eat with them I did a warm potato salad:

  • boiled potatoes (still hot)
  • mesclun
  • thin sliced red onion
  • pine nuts (toasted in a dry¬† frypan while the potatoes boiled)

Dressed with plenty of salt and peper and some olive oil and a few spoonsful of the juice from a jar of preserved lemons and limes.