Sunday, February 19, 2012

Preserved Meyer Lemons

Preserved Meyer Lemons
(AKA Pickled Lemons)

The Meyers lemons from the food co-op are gorgeous. I want to roll around in them like a little kid in the ball pit at Chuck-E-Cheeses (do they still have ball bits there? I haven't been since I was like 13 years old so I don't know if they do or not). 

At any rate, I have been making all things Meyer lemon. About six weeks ago, I made some preserved lemons to use in...well, just about everything it turns out. Traditionally they are used in Moroccan cooking, but I have discovered they are incredible in anything that needs a bit of a punch of lemony-goodness. Soups. Salads. Casseroles. Desserts. Fish. Poultry. Drinks (Thai lemonade, anyone?)

I just pull a few quarters out of the jar, rinse them well, slice, dice or mince them and away we go. My latest obsession is putting them in the tabbouleh salad I can't seem to eat enough of. I use Meyer Lemon Oil and Meyer Lemon juice to dress the salad and then I toss in preserved Meyer lemons and I am in lemon heaven.

From what I gather, preserved lemon are considered a condiment. I consider them one of the best ways to extend the lemon season throughout the year.

1. Scrub some lemons well. 

2. Slice them into quarters, being sure NOT to cut all the way through. You want them to be attached at the base, kind of like a flower.

3. Pack the lemons full of a good rock salt and place in shallow dish. I use an organic sea salt. I have used Real Salt in its rock form but the lemons don't end up very pretty at the end of the process. Tasty, but not very nice to look at. I use those in dishes where the lemon will be "hiding."

4. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for about 24 hours. This helps to soften the rinds a bit and allows you to pack the lemons quite tightly into the jars.

5. The next day, pack as many lemons as you can into a sterilized jar. Pour in any juice that has collected in the bottom of the dish you set the lemons in.  Don't be shy about this step! No need to treat these little beauties with kid gloves. You want them to release as much juice as possible and to get real close to their neighbors there in the jar.  As you fill the jar, use rock salt to fill any spaces.  I can usually get 10-12 Meyer lemons in to one quart size jar.

6. Top off with more rock salt. No part of the lemon should be exposed to the air.

7. Top jar with an air tight lid and date it. These lovely little things have to sit around for 6 weeks before they are ready to enjoy. I tuck mine in a cupboard where I have some space for fermenting foods (BTW, if you haven't had homemade sauerkraut, then you are missing out on one of the great pleasures of life).  Periodically, I will take it out and shake it gently to make sure the juices and salt are reaching all the lemony bits in the jar.

8. After six weeks, enjoy a bit of preserved sunshine! Just pull out what you need and rinse them well. You can ditch the pulp if you want, but if you do use it, it really pumps up the lemon flavors in your dish. Pour a bit of olive oil on top of the ones left in the jar, then store in the fridge for up to 6 months.  Oh - and don't toss the liquid. It can be used for all sorts of things as well.

There are some people who use a water bath to preserve these even further.  I haven't tried that yet, mainly because I didn't know how good they were and I didn't wan to invest the time and effort to put up 24 pints of preserved lemons just to find out they were terrible. But they aren't terrible at all. They are terribly tasty!

So if you happen to find a couple of pounds of Meyer lemons that you aren't quite sure what to do with, try this out with them and see if you like them, too.

I tried slicing some up for a pint sized jar of them. I will let you now how they turn out. It isn't the traditional Moroccan way, but it might make it easier when I only need a little bit of the preserved lemon.