I was introduced to the idea of pickled lemons twenty-five years ago. The recipe, dated 1878, was included in a cookbook that I acquired when Mark and I visted San Augustine, Florida, during our honeymoon. The intimidating directions required the lemons to dry until “they are black, and look good for nothing,” and the pickling or preserving process required an entire year. I occasionaly read the recipe for entertainment, and wondered who thought up such a thing as pickled lemons.
Recently, I learned that pickled/preserved lemons are a Moroccan condiment. When I found a recipe that promised results in a mere six weeks, I knew it was to time to preserve some lemons. It didn’t take long for Hannah and me to make them since no cooking was involved. While waiting for the lemons to attain preserved status by way of salt and their own tart juices, the fruit casts a sunshiney glow in my kitchen.
MOROCCAN PRESERVED LEMONS
About 15 organic lemons plus a few extra for juicing
1 17.6 ounce container of Morton Coarse Sea Salt
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 dried bay leaves
3 cardamom pods
3 dried chili peppers
5 whole cloves
10 coriander seeds
1 1/2 quart jar with tight fitting lid
Layer 3/8-inch of salt at the bottom of the jar, and add two or three whole spices to it.
Slice off tops and bottoms of lemons. Stand each lemon on it’s end, and slice down the middle, stopping about 3/8 inch from the bottom. Slice again as if cutting the lemon in quarters, and, as before, stop before cutting all the way through.
Stuff the slits of the lemon with as much salt as it will hold, about 1 tablespoon.
Pack lemons firmly in the jar, sprinkling salt and spices between each layer. As the lemons are packed into the jar, juice from the squashed lemons will begin to cover the fruits. Squeeze additional lemon juice, if needed, from the extra lemons to cover the top layer by about 1/4 inch.
Secure the lid tightly, and leave on the countertop for six weeks. Gently shake the jar daily to mix the ingredients. Refrigerate at the end of six weeks. They will last in the refrigerator for at least six months.
To Use: Rinse lemons peels, and scrape away the flesh. Slice the peel thinly, or chop finely, and add to sauted vegetables. Combine chopped peel with butter, or olive oil, along with fresh herbs; spread on grilled or broiled fish. Add the flavorful juice to other dishes, keeping in mind that the juice is salty, and additional salt may not be needed.