I absolutely love lemons. I find myself grating lemon zest into anything I can and even sucking on lemon wedges with a little salt. Yes, I'm that crazy about lemons. This versatile and beautiful fruit likely originated in northwestern India as a two-step hybrid fruit, first between a citron and lime. Later this citron-lime fruit was crossed with a pummelo, which formed the lemon. It made its way through the Middle East then to the Mediterranean and then to Spain. Every region utilized the lemon differently but in northern Africa the lemon is preserved giving new dimension to its bright flavor.
Preserved lemons are used in dishes throughout Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The process preserves the lemons in their own juices and lots of salt, which develops bacteria and yeast to transforms the acrid bitter peel into an edible condiment within weeks. The addition of the peel of preserved lemons lends a deeper and rounder sour flavor that is very different from the light and sharp tang of raw lemon.
I'm using this batch in a Moroccan chicken tagine (stay tuned!), but a little preserved lemon goes a long way in anything like stewed meats or tagines. You can also chop it finely and add it to dressings, sauces and dips. It's best to use a thinner skinned lemon like Meyer lemons, but any lemon will do. I didn't use Meyer lemons this time and it turned out great. Try to find unwaxed ones or scrub and wash your lemons very well as you'll be eating the peel.
– 6 lemons, scrubbed and cleaned
– 3 cups of kosher or sea salt
*You can shorten the preserving process by freezing the lemons first, which helps speed up the salt penetration. Simply place the lemons in a freezer bag after you've cut them and let them fully freeze and defrost. Then, start packing them with salt.
In a large clean jar, fill the bottom of it with 1 cup of salt.
Using a knife, cut the lemons lengthwise twice so you have an X-shape incision, but do not cut all the way through the lemon so it is still attached at one end. Open up the lemon and pack salt inside the lemon.
Pack three of the lemons on top of the first layer of salt and then add another cup of salt. Add the last three lemons and then pour in the last cup of salt on top of the lemons. Press down so the juices release and fill the rest of the jar with water just until it covers the lemons.
Close the jar and store in a cool and dark place for 2-3 weeks until the lemon peel has softened. Every now and then turn the jar upside down so the salt redistributes.
When you're ready to use the preserved lemons just remove the pulp and use the peel. Make sure to rinse off the peel to remove excess salt before adding it to your dish. You can store the preserved lemons for up to a 6 months in the refrigerator.
(Recipe from Dinners and Dreams)