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Ocean Breathes Salty - A little less than a happy high
komos
komos
Ocean Breathes Salty
In late January, I made my first attempt at preserved lemons. Though they're technically ready now, I've read that they're best if you wait at least three months prior to using them, so it will be almost May before I think about tossing them chopped with feta cheese and olives into a salad, or using them to flavor broiled fish or lamb stew. Like so many other things I've experimented with, making them is mind-numbingly simple. Halved meyer lemons are placed in a large sealable jar and literally covered with coarse salt. In the following weeks, the whole has shrunk roughly a third in volume and the lemons have created their own brine as the juice has slowly leached from them. I've added more salt on two occasions - keeping the lemons covered was recommended - but otherwise, the biggest effort has been in the waiting.

...and worrying. I can't tell you how much unnecessary fretting I've done over what was essentially meant to be a fire and forget project. There are as many ways to make preserved lemons as there are to cook with them, and as I've browsed, I've wondered if I should have gone with one of the other treatments. Should I have gone with a brined method instead of salt-packed? Perhaps I might have thought of the addition of bay leaves, or coriander, or any of the other myriad of herbs and spices whose subtle variations could be the final push for the ingredient to enter into the sublime?

I do this with everything. Paralysis, thy name is perfection.

Incidentally, I've gotten word from a colleague's Sicilian relative - the one who has made his own prosciutto and sopressata for nigh on thirty years - that saltpeter is really an optional addition in the preserved meat game. To the best of his understanding, the main reason for including nitrites in the cure is to enhance color, but he won't use it because he doesn't like what it does to the taste of the meat.
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Comments
bbbsg From: bbbsg Date: March 3rd, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
it must be a thing, as i recently made my first batch of preserved lemons :)
i used a juice and salt method, and i would be happy to do a side by side tasting...
komos From: komos Date: March 3rd, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
It seems like it would produce a milder version, but I could be wrong. Most of the brined recipes seemed to be a 1-3 week cure with up to a six month shelf-life in the fridge. These talk about a nearly endless shelf-life if kept covered with salt.

Crazy thing? I found them online at $10 for two quartered lemons. This blew my mind.

Edited at 2008-03-03 10:16 pm (UTC)
bbbsg From: bbbsg Date: March 3rd, 2008 10:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
people will pay obscene things for convenience. true story.
komos From: komos Date: March 3rd, 2008 10:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Seems like there should be a way to take advantage of this somehow... for PROFIT!
bbbsg From: bbbsg Date: March 3rd, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
see email.
inahandbasket From: inahandbasket Date: March 3rd, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I put up salt cured ones too!
ours went in the salt on Jan 13th.
komos From: komos Date: March 3rd, 2008 10:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Easiest thing in a whole book of frighteningly easy things.
inahandbasket From: inahandbasket Date: March 3rd, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
exactly. ^_^
From: lastcallforcorn Date: March 3rd, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
i've never even heard of preserved lemons. should i make some, too? do you get a lot of use out of them?

p.s. i'm looking for something exciting to do with the blueberries i froze last summer. any ideas?
komos From: komos Date: March 4th, 2008 01:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Sure, why not? Easiest is a choice between halving lemons and covering with coarse sea salt or kosher salt (check once a week to make sure they're still covered), else grab nine meyers and follow Paula Wolfert's recipe.

Most basic use is to dig out the pulp and then chop up a 1/4 peel to sprinkle in a salad or on pizza. They're also good with olives, lox, broiled fish, couscous, and all manner of stews and tagines. I know them mostly from Moroccan cuisine, but you can use them pretty much anywhere you'd use a lemon.

As for the blueberries? I'm partial to muffins and scones for frozen berries, but you might also think about a compote to serve over flan... or over muffins and scones.

Edited at 2008-03-04 05:17 pm (UTC)
transcribe From: transcribe Date: March 3rd, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
How funny, I preserved mine today! So I should add more salt and water later? I used half meyer lemon juice and half water.

komos From: komos Date: March 4th, 2008 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I love synchronicity. Fantastic! ^^

I haven't done a brine, but if the lemons behave at all like they do when salt-packed, there should probably be more than enough liquid to keep them covered throughout their shelf-life.
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