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About Those Lemons….

I’m sitting on this patio, sipping my coffee, listening to a few tweeting birds and watching the morning sun creep across the flora. This is a fecund place, this California yard. As the sun climbs higher, the yard is bathed in an extraordinarily sweet scent. It’s the tree that made these lemons. Right now, its fruits hang green but its flowers bloom and the bees buzz with diligence as they go about their business.

What you see above are last year’s results. The generous in-laws sent us a box, and then another, and for quite some time our kitchen bin was stuffed with lemons. So I pickled a bunch.

I made two types: classic salted, Moroccan style; and a spicy Indian version. Both recipes hail from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.

I’d never done this before, but I discovered it’s really quite simple. After several weeks, you’re left with stuffed jars full of the pungent richness required of so many tajines and other recipes from that corner of the world.

Here’s the skinny:

Basic Moroccan Preserved Lemons
Based on the recipe by Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Lemons, enough to stuff a jar
Sea salt, enough to stuff the lemons

Wash and dry the lemons, then slice into quarters, almost all of the way through—but not quite. You want the lemons to remain intact. Stuff each one with sea salt. Squeeze lemons into a clean glass jar, top with more salt and cover with lemon juice. Seal the jar by simmering in hot water for 10 minutes. Keep at least three weeks before eating.

Spiced Indian Preserved Lemons
Based on the recipe by Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Lemons, enough to stuff a glass jar
1 part fennel seed
1 part cumin seed
1 part black peppercorns
1 part sea salt
Several bay leaves
Sugar to taste
Dried chiles to taste

Toast the fennel, cumin, pepper and salt in a hot, dry pan. (Toasting the salt is not necessary, although I did because I used a Cambodian salt that came straight from the beach without processing. I also find toasting adds depth to the flavor of sea salt.) Crush the toasted spices using a mortar and pestle.

Slice each lemon into eighths without cutting all the way through. Stuff with spice mixture, then jam the lemons into a glass jar. Add bay leaves and cover with lemon juice. Let sit for one week.

After a week has passed, squeeze all juices into a non-reactive pan and simmer. Add sugar and chiles, then the lemons, and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Return lemons and juices to the jar, cover and keep closed for one month.

Truth out: these lemons remain in our refrigerator. I have not yet cooked with them, but I can attest the spices smelled wonderful while simmering in the pot. We are on the road now. The lemons await our return. I can also attest: the leftover toasted spice mixture tastes great on popcorn!

Stay tuned to find out what I did with the first Moroccan lemon we took from the jar….

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