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Friday, 10 August 2007

Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons are something I’ve been meaning to try out for sometime now. I can't think of a better way than by having a bash at preserving a jar myself? I understand they have a unique taste of saltiness without them being bitter coinciding with a silky-smooth texture which cannot be replaced with fresh lemons. The only downside of making my own is the waiting game for them to come to maturity.

In Morocco I understand these lemons are used in their Tagines - slowly cooked meat dishes, mainly lamb dishes. I would like to try when my lemons mature a Tagine of chicken, even though this may not be fully authentic it would suit my family’s tastes better. I don’t have one of those elaborate Tagine dishes with funnels so I will be cooking my dishes in a normal casserole pot.

This is how I made my Preserved Lemons.

10 small ripe lemons, thin skinned if possible
Coarse sea salt (I use Maldon Sea salt)
Lemon juice, juice of 1 lemon for each preserving jar
Boiling water to top up the brine

I used available organic lemons for my preserves, not being able to obtain Moroccan lemons. I scrubbed each lemon to remove any impurities and soaked them in water for five days, changing the water each day before the next stage of salting and making the brine.

I like to use large Kilner jars that look very attractive with glinting lemons peeking through the glass. Of course smaller jars could be used and some given as homemade gifts to family and friends.

To prepare the lemons for salting – cut from tip of each lemon with a shape knife, I cut into quarters just leaving 1cm (½ in) intact at the bottom of each lemon. Open up each lemon and pack with coarse salt. I then packed about ten salted lemons into the large Kilner jar, no science needed here, just a good old shove down to pack them in. Add the juice of 1 lemon to each jar and enough boiling water to bring the brine to the top of each jar. Cover and seal down.

The lemons need to mature for at least five weeks in their brine before even considering using them. After opening I would suggest that they be stored in the fridge and only use clean spoons to take each lemon out, as any fat on a spoon would spoil the pickling mixture. It’s always wise to rinse the preserved lemon before use in cooking.

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