This recipe for preserved lemons is completed in five days. Compared with the traditional approach to preserved lemons, it cuts out three weeks of waiting by simmering whole lemons in a saltwater solution to hurry along the curing process. The rind of the lemon is the prized part, but the soft flesh is very good in salad dressings, and the liquid can be used whenever a salty lemon flavor is desired in a recipe.
• Rinse the lemons under cool running water removing any dirt.
• Using a sharp knife, make 8 vertical but shallow incisions along the length of the lemon, taking care not to cut into the flesh. Set aside.
• In a saucepan, bring the water & salt to a boil. Add the lemons and boil until the rind is soft, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to let the lemons cool in the liquid.
• Using a slotted spoon or tongs transfer the cooled lemons, but not the cooking liquid, to a clean, dry 16-ounce glass jar with a lid, pressing on the lemons to release any juice and ensure a snug fit. (It may be necessary to cut 1 or more of the lemons into halves or quarters to ensure that they are tightly packed.)
• Add enough of the cooking liquid to cover the lemons; it is important that they be completely immersed. (Cover and refrigerate any remaining cooking liquid; you might need it to keep the lemons covered as they cure.) Leave a bit of air before closing the jar to allow for expansion of the lemons as they absorb the salt and liquid.
• Close the lid and set aside for 5 days at room temperature, gently turning the jar upside down and then right side up again, occasionally, to redistribute the salt. If at any time the lemons are not completely immersed, add enough reserved liquid to cover them immediately, as spoilage can occur within a day.
• After 5 days, the lemons are ready. They may be refrigerated for up to 6 months.
• To use: Cut off a small piece of lemon rind and taste for saltiness. Rinse if necessary. Finely chop the rind or cut it into slivers, depending on the intended use.
12 Uses for Preserved Lemons:
1. Make a vinaigrette by mixing some of the preserving liquid with olive oil and a bit of minced lemon flesh.Add spices and herbs to taste.
2. Preserved lemons are wonderful in soups or stews or vegetable dishes, whenever both lemon and salt are appropriate (as the preserved lemons are salty, taste dish before adding any salt).
3. Make lemon-herb butter by mixing minced preserved lemon rind, finely chopped herbs, and softened
butter until smooth. Roll the butter into a cylinder and refrigerate. Cut off discs of the butter and use as needed for meat, poultry, fish, and (with the addition of minced garlic) an amazing garlic bread.
4. Flavor sauces and beurre-blancs by adding minced preserved lemon rind.
5. Add minced rind or flesh to cooked vegetables, along with butter or oil, for a wonderful and easy way to perk them up.
6. Make a baste for roasts, or to place under the skin of a chicken, by mixing some of the liquid, minced lemon rind, minced shallot, olive oil and herbs, blended into a thin paste.
7. Add some minced preserved lemon to hummus (omit any salt or lemon in the recipe).
8. Add some minced preserved lemon to mayonnaise and use as a dip for artichokes or asparagus.
9. Preserved lemon is wonderful in couscous or other grain dishes.
10. Cook and mash winter squash and season with some minced preserved lemon, and butter or olive oil.
11. Add to vanilla ice cream for a delightfully different, and zesty dessert.
12. Make a prize-winning pasta by heating 4 cloves minced garlic with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, and 1/2 of a chopped preserved lemon (rind and meat– rinsed if very salty). Toss with the hot, drained pasta as soon as pasta is done, and serve. Top with chopped parsley, freshly ground black pepper, and parmesan cheese, as desired.
Recipe by Betty’s Organics friend and customer Terri Pischoff Wuerthner, a Sonoma County food writer specializing in recipe development and testing – www.terris-kitchen.com