Wednesday, November 23

gift giving - preserved lemons



This gift giving year I am attempting to preserve lemons inspired by this recipe and blog, cooking lessons by Sally P. Vargas. She has beautiful photos and a great recipe to follow. I need to make about 10 jars to gift to family and friends. My plan is to attack this over thanksgiving Break. Here is her recipe:


Preserved lemons

Preserved lemons have a deep, intense lemony flavor that goes in a completely different direction from the zesty sourness you expect from a fresh lemon. You may have seen giant, fancy jars of these with whole lemons in salty brine. Those lemons are almost quartered (the bottom of the ‘flower’ cut stays intact) but practically speaking, you might as well cut them in quarters. The quarters are easier to get into the jars and more importantly, easier to retrieve from the jars as you need them (with a clean fork, never fingers) than the whole lemons. It is helpful to use jars that have “shoulders” so that the lemons stay submerged in liquid. I found a mesh bag of organic lemons at Whole Foods last week—you will be eating the rind, so use organic.


For 3 (pint-size) jars

9 small organic lemons for the jars, plus about 9 more extra lemons for juice
About 1 cup coarse Kosher salt
3 bay leaves
3 sticks of cinnamon
A few whole cloves

1. Scrub the lemons and cut off the stem (pointy) end if it is very prominent. Quarter the lemons.

2. Place a heaping tablespoon of salt in the bottom of each squeaky clean jar. Cram in some lemon quarters to fill the bottom of the jar and sprinkle with a rounded tablespoon of salt. Continue to layer the lemons with the salt. If you want to be fancy, add a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick and a few cloves to each jar. Press down on the lemons so that they release some juice. Eventually they will soften and be easier to press down. By eventually I mean about a week or so. Top off the jar with lemon juice so that the lemons are completely submerged in brine.

3. Close the jars and let stand at room temperature overnight. The next day, open the jars and press down on the lemons to encourage them to release more juice. Close the jars and tilt them a few times to begin to dissolve the salt. Repeat this routine for about 5 days; then store them in the refrigerator. Top off with more lemon juice as needed. The lemons are ready to use when the rind softens. This will take 3 to 4 weeks.


Note: The most taxing part of this recipe is squeezing the lemons for extra juice. If you have an electric juicer, it will go a lot faster. In any case, use lemons at room-temperature and roll them back and forth vigorously before squeezing them, or zap them in the microwave for about 10 seconds.

Photo and recipe credit: Sally Paisley Vargas

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