My one favorite thing about the winter season is citrus fruit. When I have a good lemon or orange in hand, I almost forget about the mountains of snow and the blistery weather. I always seek out unusual citrus fruits, from Meyer lemons to blood oranges. But the one citrus fruit I use most is the standard lemon. The ones available in the supermarket are typically the Eureka variety. I use those juicy yellow orbs in practically every recipe. Salad dressings, baked goods, and stews all benefit from a little lemon, be it the juice or zest. The aroma and flavor of lemons are what make them so special and revered in many cuisines.
Luckily we can get lemons year-round in the supermarket, but there are also ways to preserve them. Many cultures preserve lemons when they are in season for later use during the rest of the year. North African cuisine, particularly Moroccan, and even Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines utilize preserved lemons in many savory recipes. They are added to the famous Moroccan tagines. They are also great in standard stews, braises, and roasts. Just as with the fresh citrus fruit, the possibilities are limitless with preserved lemons.
As with old-fashioned canning, lemons are preserved in a salt brine. After a month, the lemons are ready to use. It's a good idea to rinse each lemon before using. Both the rind and flesh can be used, but mainly the rind is preferred. It can be minced or sliced and added directly to recipes. Preserved lemons have an intense lemon flavor, so a little goes a long way. Bring a bit of the exotic to your cooking with preserved lemons. Stay tuned for recipes a month from now.
Note: Make sure to scrub the lemons very well to remove any wax coating. Or purchase unwaxed lemons.
7 lemons, 6 quartered, 1 juiced
1/2 cup Kosher salt
Layer lemon quarters and salt in a 1-quart canning jar, preferably one with a wire and glass enclosure. Use a wooden spoon to press the lemons down into the jar to release their juices. If there is room, add the remainder of the juiced lemon. Top off with lemon juice to ensure the lemons are submerged in liquid. Cover with the lid and jostle gently to dissolve the salt. Set the jar aside in a cool, dark spot for 3 to 4 weeks.