Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Preserving Floyd: Preserved Lemons, Maghreb-style

I don't make much fermented stuff.  I never seem to have much luck with it but I do keep trying.  However, this is different from fermenting cabbage or dill pickles.  I just love it.  I got the recipe from Tigress over at Hungry Tigress.  She loves Indian food and Indian pickle in particular.  In fact, she eats her way through India on a regular basis and brings back recipes of very good things for the rest of us to try.  I made this one last year because I love lemon and the colors in this pickle pulled me in.  But the flavor!  I didn't expect how much I was going to love that and sometimes I would pull out a few of the tender rinds just to nibble on by themselves!  Lemons were on special last week so I loaded up and made a 2 quart jar.

The first time I did this recipe I made it in the 1 pound quantity.  This time I did 5 lbs at once and simply multiplied the recipe.

Preserved Lemons, Maghreb-style
1 pound lemons  **Tigress recommends Meyer lemons but I rarely see them.  Regular lemons worked fine for me**
pinch saffron
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or Turkish, or cayenne powder, or paprika) **I used paprika**
2 small bay leaves, or one large
3/4 tablespoon sugar
4 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
1 very clean & very dry 3/4 or 1 quart glass jar

Since the lemons I used weren't organic I gave them a good scrubbing with soap, water, and a soft brush, then rinsed and dried them.  Don't forget to go pull all those annoying little stickers off!

Cut lemons in quarters longways and remove the pips.  I cut over a glass pie plate to catch the juice.  I also remove the center membrane of each quarter which gives me better access to the pips.

When all the lemons have been cut and seeded, gather up the trimmings and squeeze to remove any juice then discard.

Mix together the salt, sugar, and pepper. Crush the saffron and mix it in with the rest.

In a really large bowl or tub, toss the lemons with the spice mixture and make sure they are well coated.

Next, start packing the lemons into the jar, strongly pressing down on them as you go to release the juice.  When the jar is about half full drop in a handful of the salt/spice mixture from the bottom of the coated lemons bowl and add the bay leaves.

Continue packing and pressing the lemons into the jar until it's full.  Pour in any juice collected from cutting the lemons.  If you have any salt/spice mixture in the bottom of the bowl, throw another handful on top.  The juice should come at least 3/4 of the way up the lemons.  If you don't have enough top it up with a little more freshly squeezed or bottled lemon juice.

Set the jar in the sun for a week to ten days, shaking it daily.  If the jar doesn't leak alternate days standing it upside down with upright.

One Week Later...

The salt has pulled the lemon juice out of the quarters and the lemon juice has dissolved all the salt it can hold.

Close up you can see what's left of the undissolved salt and the grains of the paprika.
You can move the jar out of the sun now but continue to let it sit at room temperature for another 2-3 weeks.  The lemons are ready when the peels have lost their bitterness and are tender but firm.  Pull out a quarter and cut a bit off, then rinse the salt off that bit and taste the rind.  Once this stage is reached the jar should be refrigerated.  

The lemon flesh is not the object of this exercise, it's the rind we're after.  To use, pull the rind away from the flesh and rinse it free from salt.   Mince the rind and add it to curries, sauces, as an ingredient in marinades and vinaigrettes, add it to salads both green and fruit, sprinkle over chicken and fish, serve it diced on the side as a condiment.  Or if you love citrus like I do, nibble it like a pickle!

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