16 November 2012

Lemons: Moroccan Preserved

Last New Year's we were in sensory overload eating our way through the souks of Morocco. One of the flavours that captured the vibrancy, intensity and colour of Moroccan culture and cuisine was the preserved lemon. From the hint of preserved lemon in steamed couscous to its perfect pairing in a tagine with chicken and green olives, the jars of preserved lemons in the markets and taste on your tongue stay with you. With my glut of lemons and the oncoming sunshine I knew I wanted to make preserved lemons to have on hand to add to summer salads, or slowcook with meat.

This recipe takes its base from several cookbooks I picked up in Morocco, some mentioned bay leaves, some mentioned cloves or cinnamon, and some just had salt and black peppercorns... I added it all! 
  • 6 lemons (whole)
  • 250 coarse rock salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 3 shards of cinnamon stick
  • 100 ml lemon juice
  1. prepare a sterilised jar which will fit your lemons, without leaving any room for air**
  2. make sure your lemons do not have a wax coating on the skin, if they are shop bought, scrub them with warm water, bicarb soda and a soft brush to remove; if they are straight from a tree, rinse them and proceed...
  3. lemons should be firm but not under ripe, the skin should still be plump and glossy and not starting to go dull
  4. remove any part of the stem or leaves
  5. cut lemon from the point back towards the stem end into quarters without cutting all the way through the base, you want your lemon to still be in one piece
  6. spoon 1 tablespoon of rock salt into the bottom of the sterilised jar
  7. push 1 tablespoon of rock salt into each lemon, massaging well to make sure the entire interior touches the salt
  8. once salted, press lemons into the jar, adding the bay leaves and spices as you go, and sprinkling with another tablespoon of salt for each layer of lemons
  9. when the jar is full with the lemons tightly packed, pour in lemon juice to cover all the lemons and seal
  10. store in a cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks, and up to 5 months unopened
  11. when ready, remove a lemon quarter from the jar and rinse well under cold running water, remove the pulp and a little white pith if there is lots of it, leaving only the rind. Rinse again, pat dry and chop finely for inclusion in your recipe!
  12. once your jar is opened, store in the fridge. Lemons may get a white film on the top of the jar, this is harmless and can just be scraped off
**see Lemon curd recipe for sterilising jars

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