Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When life hands you lemons...

...salt 'em up.

Over the holidays, my dad gave me one of my new favorite cookbooks, Well Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods by Eugenia Bone. I love canning, but even I sometimes get sick of jam, and there's always the question of what you do with the stuff in those jars once you're ready to use them. This book solves both problems, with amazing recipes for unique, delicious preserves as well as multiple recipes for utilizing each one.

For example, there's a recipe for salty brined Meyer lemon preserves. Once those are done, you can use them in soups or tagine, or in the cookbook's recipes for Preserved Meyer Lemon Risotto or Chicken Cutlets with Preserved Meyer Lemons and Parsley. The possibilities are endless since salt and lemons go with just about everything!

Now is the time to get in on Meyer lemon action; they're at their best if you can find them at a farmers' market or a good co-op. You can use regular lemons, but you'll need to juice more of them and they won't be as good. Trust me, if you haven't tried cooking with Meyer lemons, they make a world of difference - the skin is thin and flavorful, almost all zest with very little pith, and the flesh is sweet and succulent and oh so juicy, like a fresh-picked heirloom tomato. You want to put up some of these now so that you'll have salty lemon goodness to go with all your spring asparagus and cucumber salads later.

To start: Take two half-pint canning jars and run them through the dishwasher, keeping them very hot until you're ready to use them. Or boil them in a large pot of water to sterilize that way. Simmer the round flat lids to soften the rubber seal (you don't have to sterilize the rings).

You will need 10 Meyer lemons, and 1/2 cup of salt. That's it.

Juice four of the lemons, getting as much of the juice out as you can, and set aside. Trim the stem-ends off the other six lemons, then quarter them into wedges. Sprinkle a little salt in the bottom of a jar, then cram the lemon quarters into it, packing them in however they fit together with as little space as possible. Sprinkle salt in there as you go, so that the salt is evenly distributed, and do both jars so that you wind up with 12 lemon wedges and 1/4 cup of salt in each one. Pour half the juice into each jar and knock it around, tilt it, run a knife around the edge, whatever you need to do to make sure there are no air bubbles. Put the lids on - not super-tight - and set aside on the counter.

Mark your calendar for two weeks from now. Every couple of days between now and then, pick up each jar and roll it all around. Don't shake it, but mix it all up so that the salt dissolves evenly into the juice. (It'll take it a couple of days to dissolve completely.) Let them ferment for the full two weeks, and then they're ready. Move them into the fridge at that point; they'll be good for six months if they last that long!


  1. OH! I made preserved limes ages back and had NO idea what to do with them. THANKS!

  2. I made salad dressing for brunch this morning with some of mine. About a tablespoon and a half of olive oil (I didn't measure, sorry), a big spoonful of the salty lemon juice from these preserves, a little rice vinegar and Dijon mustard to round it out, whisked together with a fork. Drizzled it over baby spinach with dried cherries and chopped hazelnuts to go alongside a slice of veggie frittata.

    Really, a bit of salty fermented lemon juice makes anything sing!