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Herb Infused Preserved Lemons

Winter is the right time to start a batch of preserved lemons. Meyer lemons are in season and inexpensive, and the mysteriously lovely and lemony result goes with so many dishes, year-round.

Herb Infused Preserved Lemons from SoupAddict.com

Ya know, there are lots of advantages to living in a temperate zone with distinct seasons. Spring, with all the baby green sprouts everywhere, and the fresh smell of a sudden rain, and digging one’s hands into the earth to prepare the soil for all the veggie goodness to come. Oooooooo. Summer, with her warmth and bright, soul-lifting sunshine. And tomatoes! Tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes == loves of my life. Mmmmmmm. And just when you can’t take one more drippy-forehead day of broiling humidity, Fall arrives with blue skies and crisp breezes and jeans weather. Ahhhhhhhh.

But then there’s winter => grumpy face. I’m a summer girl, through and through, and winter is the exact opposite of summer — winter <= => summer. Take today: there’s still nuisance snow on the ground from Tuesday (nuisance, meaning that the frozen slush factor on every parking lot surface in my world overshadows the beauty of frou-frou, snow-covered trees). And, it probably won’t top 20°F through the weekend => grumpy face.

Herb Infused Preserved Lemons from SoupAddict.com

But. Just when I think I can’t take another second of this madness, I walk through the produce department and find stacks and stacks of citrus. Silly, precariously-built pyramids of oranges and grapefruits. Bins filled with lemons and limes and tangerines and buddha-belly sumo mandarins. And I fill my cart with way too many of them all, and pull squealing into my driveway on two wheels, and make a mad dash for the kitchen where I peel off citrus skin like there’s a winning Powerball ticket tucked inside and <<<boom>>> automagical sunshine aromas fill my kitchen, and life is good again.

Herb Infused Preserved Lemons from SoupAddict.com

The last few summers have been a bit of a cook’s bummer, because we’ve had {gulp} citrus shortages. There would be stretches of no oranges and/or lemons and/or limes. Remember the Great Lime Shortage of 2014 that threatened our margarita and guacamole supply? The nerve!

So, while citrus is officially in-season in the U.S., I make the effort to preserve citrus in some form, whether it’s zests in the freezer, or frozen juice in ice cube trays. Or the famous Moroccan ingredient, preserved lemons, which add >ooomph< to a dish, whether it’s Moroccan or not.

Preserved lemons are absolutely worth doing, because they last a long, long time in their acid-salty brine. Now, I’m no food safety expert, so take this with a grain of salt [see what I did there? Brine => Salt? Eh? EH?] but, by the time fall rolls around, the mostly empty jar of preserved lemons has worked its way to the back of the fridge, forgotten, which I usually find sometime later that winter, and lo and behold, it’s been 12, 14 months, and they’re still good.

The best news is that preserved lemons only take a few minutes to prepare. The rest of the time is waaaiiting for them to … what’s the correct word … ferment … ripen? Pickle? Mature. How ’bout that? Mature.

Then, they’re ready to use. Honestly, I don’t cook that many Moroccan dishes, but the fact is, preserved lemons kick up the flavor volume wherever they’re added, including in soups (yo!), stews, pastas, sauteed vegetables, roasted chicken, fish, salad dressings, sauces, and even hummus.

Herb Infused Preserved Lemons from SoupAddict.com

Tips for Making Preserved Lemons

  • If you can find them, use Meyer lemons, which are sweet lemons resulting from a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange. (“Meyer,” btw, is capitalized because the fruit is named after the man who introduced them to the U.S., Frank Meyer >>> food trivia of the day.) The well-balanced puckery sweetness of a Meyer lemon perfectly counters the salty brine that produces the deliciously tender rind.
  • Preserved lemons are awesome on their own, but you can create customized versions by adding herbs and spices. You can go classic Moroccan with cinnamon sticks, cloves, coriander seeds, and peppercorns. Or, if you have a favorite combo of herbs and spices, like I do, use that. Even chili peppers work, for added punch. The preserved lemons will be gently infused with these extra flavors.
  • I’ve been making preserved lemons for years, and I’ve learned to skip the traditional lemon preparation where you slice each into quarters without cutting all the through the lemon on one end (so the quarters are still attached), fill the lemon flowers with salt, re-form the lemon, and pack everything into the jar with more salt. This is a cool way to do it … but sometimes the wedges are stubborn to come apart when you just need one, and you end up over-handling wedges that go back in the jar, becoming potentially contaminated. Instead, I slice the lemons into plain ole regular wedges, and they still work great (and you can fit more in the jar).
  • Related to the above, be certain to observe safe food handling practices. Sterilize the jars and lids in which you’ll store the lemons. Thoroughly wash the lemons and fresh herbs (use organic, if you can). Later, when the rinds are ready to use, be sure use a clean fork or tongs — not your fingers — to retrieve wedges from the jar.
  • I use mason or Weck jars to store my preserved lemons — aren’t they pretty! — and figure on needing two large to three medium lemons per pint jar, plus extra for fresh juice.
  • Before using the wedges, always rinse them well to wash away the excess salt. Note that many recipes will call for you to remove and discard the pulp, using only the rinds.

Soon, I’ll share a soup recipe that puts preserved lemons to great use. In the meantime, go forth, buy lemons, make preserved lemons!

Karen xo

 

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Herb Infused Preserved Lemons

Prep Time10 mins
Total Time10 mins
Author: Karen Gibson

Ingredients

  • Meyer lemons or regular lemons 2 to 3 per jar, plus extra for juice
  • sea salt or pickling salt
  • 1 large fresh rosemary cut into 1" sections
  • fresh thyme stems cut into 1" sections
  • fresh marjoram stems cut into 1" sections
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf

equipment

  • sterilized glass jars with lids

Instructions

  • Slice away any pointy ends on the lemons, then cut in half, and finally, in 1" wide wedges (see note in post above slicing them the Moroccan way).
  • Pour a layer of salt in the bottom of the jar. Add a portion of the herbs and spices (not the bay leaf), then top with a layer of lemon wedges, packing them in tightly.
  • Pour more salt over the lemon wedges, then repeat layering with herbs, spices, and lemon wedges. Use a spoon to smash down the contents of the jar, squeezing lemon juice from the wedges into the salt. Make sure everything is covered with lemon juice (if needed, squeeze more fresh into the jar). Top with the bay leaf and poke it down into the juice.
  • Leave 1" of head room in the jar. Affix the lid tightly, and leave the jar in a cool, dark place on the counter. Periodically shake the jar to mix the contents. After three to thirty days, place the jar in the fridge (depending on your comfort level with fermenting - the lemons will mature faster at room temp). Preserved lemons will reach their flavor peak between three and six months, but they'll be ready to cook with after three to four weeks.
Nutritional information, if shown, is provided as a courtesy only, and is not to be taken as medical information or advice. The nutritional values of your preparation of this recipe are impacted by several factors, including, but not limited to, the ingredient brands you use, any substitutions or measurement changes you make, and measuring accuracy.
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Recipe Rating




Darlynne

Thursday 11th of February 2016

" ... and pull squealing into my driveway on two wheels ..." Best laugh of the day. We are so invested in our food, the good stuff, the fresh stuff, and I understood exactly how you felt. Trader Joe's sells a jar of preserved lemons, which still languishes unopened in my pantry, but now I'm all excited to try my own. The Moroccan variation sounds delicious.

SoupAddict

Friday 12th of February 2016

:) I've faithfully made jars of preserved lemons, year after year, and it wasn't until I started experimenting with salad dressings and sauces that they gained a happy place in my kitchen. Anything that uses lemon and salt -- the fact that they're already salty is a huge bonus to whatever you're adding them to.