It is quick, easy and economical to make your own preserved lemons, and they will be far better than what you can find in exotic groceries — and you’ll save so much money. You can expect to pay $10 or more for a pint jar of preserved lemons, but you can make your own for only about $3 per pint and a few minutes of your time.
Now, while lemons are pretty and priced right in the stores, buy in a nice supply to have for future meals. If you find organic lemons, get those; if not, give them a good scrub.
For each pint:
• About 6-8 small lemons
• About 1/2-cup canning and pickling salt
1. Have ready a sterilized pint canning jar. Put a tablespoon of the salt into the bottom of the jar.
2. Start with 4 lemons. In a pie plate or other shallow dish, hold the lemon upright with the stem end down and slice from the bud end down to about ¼ inch from the bottom, cutting it almost in half. Turn the lemon and slice down to cut into quarters, leaving the lemon attached at the stem end, like a flower.
3. Pack canning salt inside the lemon, using a couple tablespoons. Put the lemon, cut side up, into the jar.
4. Repeat with the remaining 3 lemons, pushing each lemon down into the jar using some pressure so the lemons give up much of their juice. You’ll get at least 3 lemons, maybe 4, into the jar if you push hard. If you like, you can fill any spaces with fully quartered pieces of lemon, sprinkling each with salt as you push it into the jar. The lemons must be completely covered with lemon juice.
Next, you’ll squeeze the remaining lemons:
5. First, peel these lemons with a potato peeler or zester and reserve the peel (see below).
6. Cut the juice lemons in half and squeeze as much juice out as possible. Pour the juice into the jar until the lemons are completely covered. Close the jars with either plastic wrap under a metal lid or with a plastic lid (the salt would corrode the metal lid).
7. Upend the jar in a saucer or something just in case it leaks. Leave it overnight, and then put it upright into the refrigerator. Until the salt has completely dissolved, a couple times a day, give the jar a good shake, holding it upside-down while the salt drifts to the top of the jar.
8. Let the lemons “pickle” for 3 weeks before using. They will keep just fine for a few months in the refrigerator.
When you’re ready to use your lemons, you’ll scrape off the pulp inside the lemon, rinse the piece and use just the peel for your recipe. Maybe Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives?
You’ve saved the peel from the lemons you squeezed for juice. You can let the peel accumulate in the refrigerator for a few days, adding orange peels if you have some. You can process these peels in a mini-prep and save in the freezer to add to sweet breads and such.
If you use lemon zest in recipes, you might choose to peel the lemons with a zester and keep that zest in a zipper freezer bag until needed.
Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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