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Preserved Lemons

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Submitted by Beth from Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco by Paula Wolfert)

Preserved lemons, sold loose in the souks (Moroccan open-air markets) are one of the indispensable ingredients of Moroccan cooking, used in fragrant lamb and vegetable tagines, recipes for chicken with lemons and olives, and in salads.  Their unique pickled taste and special silken texture cannot be duplicated with fresh lemons or lime juice, despite what some food writers have said.  In Morocco they are made with a mixture of different kinds of lemons, but I have had excellent luck with American lemons from Florida and California….the important thing in preserving lemons is to be certain they are completely covered with salted lemon juice.  With my recipe you can use the lemon juice over and over again.  As a matter of fact, I keep a jar of used lemon pickling juice in the kitchen and when I make salad dressings and have a half lemon left over, I toss it into the jar and let it marinate with the rest.  Sometimes you will see a lacy, white substance clinging to preserved lemons in their jar; it is perfectly harmless, but should be rinsed off for aesthetic reasons just before the lemons are used.  Preserved lemons are rinsed in any case, to rid them of their salty taste.  Cook with both pulps and rinds, if desired.

Ingredients

  • 5 lemons (organic preferred since you will be eating the rind)
  • 1/4 cup salt, more if desired
  • (Optional Safi spice mixture—the Gills leave this out):
  • 1 cinammon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 5-6 coriander seeds
  • 3-4 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice if necessary (we usually find it’s necessary)

Equipment

  • Shallow bowl
  • Sterile 1-pint mason jar
  • Sharp knife

Preparation

Working time: 10 minutes. Ripening time: 30 days

  1.  Quarter lemons from top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom; sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, then reshape the fruit
  2.  Place one tablespoon salt on the bottom of the mason jar.  Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt, and the optional spices between layers.  Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons.  (If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice—not chemically produced lemon juice and NOT water).  Leave some air space before sealing the jar.
  3. Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, turning the jar upside down each day to distribute the salt and juice.  Let ripen for 30 days.
  4. To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under running water, removing and discarding the pulp, if desired.  There is no need to refrigerate after opening.  Preserved lemons keep up to a year, and the pickling juice cana be used two or three times over the course of a year.

Preserved fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of Vit C (ten times that of the natural fruit)! — Beth

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