Preserved lemons

I have tried a few times to make preserved lemons, which I love. All of the recipes I’d seen in the past called for you to pack cut lemons and salt tightly into a jar and then top off the jar with freshly-squeezed lemon juice. (For this use, you don’t want the cloudiness or chemicals of the bottled stuff.)

The trouble is, it would sometimes take twice as many lemons to make the juice than were going into the jar. That’s a lot of lemons.

Well, “Martha’s Cooking School” was on NPT just now and she had a recipe that involved just the cut lemons and salt – a lot of salt. She packed the lemons as tightly as possible and covered them with a little extra salt, with the premise that the salt would draw enough juice out of the lemons to cover them once they soften and collapse a little bit.

I hit the record button on my DVR but I also went to see if there was a recipe at the show’s web site.

There’s not, but it directed you to for further recipes. There, I found a video on making preserved lemons – but it was obviously an older video, from Martha’s heyday, and it involved covering the lemons with juice as I’d done in the past.

Anyway, I may have to try the no-juice method some time when I get back from camp.

Preserved lemons, if you’ve never had them, are lemons pickled in their own juice. They have to sit in the refrigerator for a month. The rind – which, in a fresh lemon, would be bitter and unpleasant – takes on a wonderful lemony flavor. You scrape off the lemon pulp – which, at that point, is way too salty – with a spoon and discard it (or put it carefully back into the jar, to help keep the remaining lemons submerged). The rind, including the zest, can then be diced or cut into little strips and used in salads, tartar sauce, seafood dishes, or what have you. I have to admit I will sometimes take a rind and just nibble at it.

You can also use a tiny bit of the salty brine to add to salad dressings or what have you. (Treat it carefully, like soy sauce – it’s very, very salty.)