Monday, February 12, 2007

Preserved Lemons Part One

I've been interested in Preserved Lemons since the first time I had a tagine at The Sultan's Tent restaurant - a wonderful Moroccan restaurant - here in Calgary. Well, interested might not be quite the right word as that first meal was ages ago and only now am I making them for the first time.

And really, I am only making them now as I've come across a wonderful sounding salad using Preserved Lemons that I just have to make for Weekend Cookbook Challenge 14. (#14's theme, by the way is salad and is being hosted this month by Tami at running with tweezers. Email your link to her by March 5!)

Preserved Lemons are a staple in Moroccan cuisine, especially in Tagines. The lemon pieces become very soft and when you are ready to use them you rinse them, scrape away and discard the flesh, and cut the rind into strips or a small dice.

It is ridiculously easy to make Preserved Lemons yourself. You only need lemons, salt, and a jar. The only drawback to making your own - the lemons must sit for 3-4 weeks before they are ready. For my salad recipe that is too far away for me so I'm making two batches of lemons. One quick and one traditional.

Below is how I've started my two batches of Preserved Lemons. All this was started on the evening of Thursday February 8.

Batch One is the quick method. Here we've got two lemons:

Since the rind will be eaten, I've washed these very very well and dried them. Then I cut off both ends of each lemon, and cut each lemon into eight pieces.

I put the wedges into a smallish zip-lock bag and put the bag in the freezer. The next morning before work I took the bag out of the freezer and added 4 tb of coarse salt.

I smooshed out the air, closed up the bag and massaged it with my hands to mix the lemons and salt together. Then I labelled it and laid it on a plate on my kitchen counter. Every day I squish the bag with my hands to mix everything up. They will be ready in a week (I've got them marked to use on Feb 15).

Batch Two is the traditional and more time consuming method.

Again, we have two very well washed and dried lemons, each lemon cut into eighths.

I put the lemons in a bowl and poured in 1/2 cup of coarse salt. I tossed everything together with my hands, and let it all sit while I washed my jar and lid, and then "sterilized" them under boiling water.

I transferred the whole mess to the jar that I drained and dried, then filled the jar to the top with extra lemon juice. I put the lid on tightly and shook for about a minute. This jar sits on my counter and I shake it every day. It will be ready to use on March 8.

It's sort of exciting (in a sad, sad way) to watch the lemons start to change. It's pretty easy to see and feel the changes in the quick batch - the color is changing slightly, there's lots of juice and the peel is so soft. I guess I'd better start looking for an easy tagine recipe so I can use up some of these lemons! Anyone got any suggestions for me?

I'll update you after Feb 15 and the beginning of March with the outcome of the lemons!


kickpleat said...

when i make preserved lemons i always add a stick of cinnamon, some cloves, cardamom pods and a star anise. yummy! i've never made a tagine, but i've stuffed roasted chicken (so delicious!) and added preserved lemon to baked fish.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I have some in my fridge waiting for a recipe!
I hope we both have good results.

Mags said...

sounds good. i look forward to seeing the end results and what kind of recipes you use them in.

Emmy said...

Oooh preserved lemons...I don't think I've ever had them before...You've piqued my interest :)

Looking forward to seeing how your salad turns out for WCC #14. I picked out a salad to make for my entry already but have to wait for the nasty, snowy weather here to clear up so I can get to the store for ingredients!!!

foodiechickie said...

Oooh I posted one yesterday. I found it on Je Mange La Ville.

Lisa Jean said...

I have made preserved lemons twice. I really love them, so much so that I have been known to have a teaspoon full of the juice plain just to fullfill a craving. Suppose that is why my blood pressure is a tad high? HMMM.

But seriously, I like them in most any chichen and fish dishes.

rachel said...

Thanks for this post! I have not eaten at many Moroccan restaurants and usually make the recipes I find from magazines and such. I have never heard of preserved lemons and they look so interesting.

Freya said...

Hi Sara, I made my preserved lemons the second way, although I still haven't gotten around to using mine either! Do let us know when you find a great recipe for them!

Linda said...

Wow!! this is just great. Thanx for sharing it!! Cheers!!Linda

peasantwench said...

I use mine for a tagine with a whole chicken and olives, over couscous. I think this is the recipe I use, with some modifications:,1977,FOOD_9936_27553,00.html, like adding twice as many olives, because they are good. So yummy.

foodiechickie said...

I couldn't find the recipe on her site again but I found a very similar one and had to use that as a link.

Sara said...

Kickpleat - great idea. If these work out I'll try that in the next batch.

Tanna - let me know what you try.

Mags, thanks!

Emmy, glad I piqued you, hope your weather is getting better.

Lisa Jean - I can't wait to try them with chicken. Fish, I'm not so sure of, but maybe.

Rachel - thanks for your kind comment!

Freya - thanks, I sure will.

Linda - thanks to you too.

Morgan - excellent recipe, thanks. I love olives too.

FC - thanks, I'll take a look around her site.

peasantwench said...

Also, to make it faster and easier, you can use chicken breasts, or whatever chicken bit you like. Whole chickens are expensive! (Though I made chicken stock out of the leftover done and such one time and the flavour was beyond fabulous.)