Some days I come home and all I can think of doing is…well…nothing. I find it hard, especially this time of year, to motivate myself. In the morning, I walk to work for an hour in the dark; when the day is over, I take the bus home in the dark. Fortunately, in Vancouver it’s never very cold (for god’s sakes, I barely need to wear tights most days), but all the same, January makes me want to curl up in my hole and hibernate like a little red fox.
Canning, too, seems to come to a standstill in the winter. Nothing is growing outside, the garlic is asleep and even the kale has died down. I think we still have a few brussel sprouts, but they’ve probably past the point of no return. All this to say, I spend a lot of time dreaming about the summer.
This blog, however, has made me realize something. There’s still so much going on. Sure, everything might be sleeping here in Vancouver, but around the world other things have come alive. I’ve been practically living on pomegranate seeds and preserved peaches, and just this week I found my first blood oranges of the season (oh, how I love a good blood orange). I also found the first of the meyer lemons. I used a few, here and there, with fish, in a delicious butternut squash risotto, but I was really saving them for preserves.
Preserved lemons are a wonderful part of moroccan cuisine, but also common to places like India and Cambodia. It’s basically just a salted lemon, with a few spices thrown in if you’re in the mood. But it brings this lovely sour/salt flavour to a dish. I have to admit, that part of the impetus for me to make them was so that I could use them in the delicious sounding dishes in Yottom Ottolenghi’s Plenty. Although, as I discovered in researching this recipe, David Lebovitz also has some marvelous suggestions.
Following is my recipe for preserved lemons. I chose to use meyer lemons as they are thinner skinned and juicier, however, you could also make this recipe with the more common Eureka lemons.
adapted from David Lebovitz and Preserving by Pat Crocker
10 whole Meyer lemons
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1/4 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 dried hot chillies
1. Process a quart size jar for 10 minutes. Warm the lid.
2. Top and tail 10 lemons so that they sit flat on the cutting board.
3. Cut the lemon in a cross vertically, almost dividing the lemons into quarters.
4. Fill each of the lemons with salt, you should use about a tbsp per lemon. Be sure to use kosher salt here.
5. Put 2 tbsp of salt into the now processed empty jar. Then begin to fill the jar with lemons pressing them down to start releasing the juices. About half way through the jar, add the aromatics, then finish up with the rest of the lemons.
6. Top the lemons off with another 2 tbsp of salt. Add the juice of one lemon if your lemons have not produced enough juice to cover the peel. Then seal.
Once the jar is sealed place it in a cool dark place to cure. Shake it every day for about three days to help distribute the salt and juices. After that put the jar in the fridge and wait about a month to use. You can use the pulp in stews, but what you’re really looking for here is the delicious skin. It will taste great chopped up in tagine, in tapenade, or made into a crust for fish. I don’t know how I’m going to wait a whole month!