To be sitting at my laptop and actually typing is such a treat. I have not had a chance to write in a LONG while for the simple fact I have been back in school. Wait, school-seriously? Why would someone at my age want to go back to school and deal with homework, study groups, projects and such…all while juggling children, family and life in general? Well, it is something I have found that fits into my niche of health, exercise and doing things daily to improve one’s self, as well as the improvement of others around me. I am studying to be a Healthy Lifestyle Coach, and so far my classes have been very challenging, but extremely interesting! (This is good because there have been many late nights when my eyes would rather close at 9 p.m. instead of 1 a.m.)
So writing on my blog has not been a top priority for me, but there are many things I plan to write about, and I have been diligently keeping a log of ideas with pictures to show the two or three people who may read my words.
One thing I have put off doing in recent weeks (besides making my Kombucha brew-see a previous article on that one) is making my own preserved lemons. Preserved lemons are typically found in Moroccan cuisine. They are tangy, tart and add amazing flavor to anything from chicken to beef stew. I first discovered this culinary treat when I purchased a cookbook by the über-famous, somewhat quirky, Gwyneth Paltrow. She has several cookbooks out, all of which I have sitting on my kitchen counter. I just love her simple love of ingredients and wholesome goodness when it comes to cooking. But some of her recipes have a few hard-to-find items that I needed to order online just to try the recipe. One of those being “preserved lemons.” And when you order something like that off Amazon, it amazingly comes in a small jar with maybe two lemons in it instead of a five-gallon jar of lemons floating in a salt solution. All for the awesome price of, well, let’s not go there.
Never using something like this before in my recipes, I needed to figure out what the taste was going to be like for my meal. So I took a small piece and popped it nonchalantly in my mouth. WOW! Imagine a Sour Patch Kid on crack and that can give you the idea of the level of acidity this product has in one small jar. But it just mellowed so beautifully in my chicken dish! Imagine the possibilities this same mouth-puckering morsel could do to other dishes that maybe needed a little pick-me-up. Of course, now I was fully sold on the beauty this simple culinary addition could add to my cooking capabilities.
But ordering online is a pain, and when you don’t use things frequently enough, they go bad. Then you have to re-order online, wait and wait some more. Now, if I lived in a thriving metropolitan community, this would be a different story. But I don’t, so I have to get a little creative. Luckily I am an avid watcher of Food Network Television. One day, Ina Garten was making some sort of French-inspired dish, but she used preserved lemons and demonstrated how to make them! Of course I didn’t have the chance to finish the episode, but it got me thinking…if Ina can make her own preserved lemons, why can’t I do it?
On to research and Google. I located a simple, simple recipe to make preserved lemons and grew giddy with excitement over all the money I was going to save in shipping fees! The recipe is simple and inexpensive, so if you want to take a shot at cooking with preserved lemons, this is the way to go without paying a lot of money for a small amount of product. Your patience will be well rewarded with a yummy accent to your daily cooking.
Here is what you will need for making homemade preserved lemons:
I used a small bag, around 5 lb. bag, of seedless lemons. The recipe called for Meyer lemons but my grocery store was out. Meyer lemons are a bit “sweeter” than a traditional lemon. If you can’t find Meyer, hang loose and just get regular lemons.
You will also need some lemon juice on hand, around 1 or 2 cups. Kosher salt or regular sea salt is another item needed. Finally, you need some sterile mason jars with lids.
Scrub clean 4 to 6 lemons. Cut ¼ off one end of each lemon and then make a cut into the lemon that divides it in half, but do NOT cut all the way through the lemon. Make another cut so the lemon is now divided in quarters. Again, don’t cut all the way through the lemon. It needs to stay together at the base.
Next, take your kosher salt and rub on the outside of the cut lemons. Then take the wedges (still connected), spread open and put more kosher salt on the inside of each lemon.
Place 1 or 2 tablespoons of kosher salt in the bottom of your mason jars (probably 2 is enough for 4-6 lemons).
Now, place the salted lemon pieces into the salted mason jars. Gently press the lemons down so that all the juice can come out and start to cover the lemons in the jar. You will need to add more lemon juice at this point so that the lemons are completely covered in the jar.
Once the lemons are packed into their salty nest, completely covered in lemony liquid, you can screw the lid on the jar and set it on your counter. The jar needs to sit for around 3 days at room temperature. During this time you need to be sure to flip the jar upside down several times to get all the liquid around the lemons. This also helps to dissolve the salt.
After the three days, put the lemons in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Remember to turn the jar upside down every so often. The rinds of the lemons will soften during this time.
When the three weeks or so is up, the lemons are ready to use for cooking. When you use a lemon, one wedge at a time, cut the pulp out from the rind. You are only after that part of the lemon at this point. The rind can be diced up and used in sauces, soups, marinades and salad dressings. Whenever you want to have a “lemony essence” in a dish, here is your answer. But a little goes a long way, so try a small slice and if you want more zing, then add more. You don’t want to overpower your dish. I love to use these little treasures in my sauces for chicken, lamb or turkey dishes. Another great idea is to mix in plain Greek yogurt with some garlic and chives. It can become a great mix to put over roasted broccoli or smoked salmon.
Of course when I talk of food I love to talk wine. So when I think of preserved lemons I lean towards a wine with more acidity. This brings me to some great Sauvignon Blancs and White Burgundies. There is no need to break the bank on a bottle either. Kim Crawford, out of Australia, has one of the best Sauvignon Blancs in my own opinion. Another great label to look for is the Macôn-Villages label from the Burgundy region of France. Some of these wines are very inexpensive, delicious to drink on their own or enjoy with a great meal…including your newly made preserved lemons, of course.
Either route you choose, remember you want to ask or find a wine that has some great acidity to it. Don’t go for oak-based whites. That will mute the flavor of your lemons. So go out, preserve, cook and drink…and may you be merry in it all!
Until next time,