Lemons Glorious Lemons 🍋
It would be a bit of a miracle to find a dozen Jamaican lemons that looked exactly the same. 'Yaad' lemons are so much larger than their pretty, petite, uniformed foreign cousins. They vary in shape and proportion with fruit ranging anywhere from a large and cumbersome grapefruit to the more manageable size of an orange. I prefer the latter which fits very nicely in the palm of your hand for squeezing. The complete absence of conformity include bumps, lumps and heavily textured skin surface making each one truly unique. What they lack in appearance, they more than make up for in flavour and aroma, and I think how dull and utterly impossible cooking would be without these perfectly imperfect fruit and their ability to brighten both sweet and savoury dishes.
Lemons are seasonal on the island and in my part of the world, the Blue Mountains, they usually bear from November through March. We have a few lemon trees, but I always order extra from my neighbour's farm, some to give away to friends and the rest for preserving to hopefully, take us through until the next season. 'Lemon time' is much anticipated and becomes a thing in my kitchen. First, I'll take a few photos to honour this treasured ingredient and then the ritual of zesting, peeling, cutting, juicing and preserving begins. The distinct, citrus aroma fills the air as juice goes in the freezer and zest and peel are paired from the fruit and put to dry in the sun. In a day or two these turn into crisp, leathery, yellow strips which are stored in bottles. Gorgeous for garnishing anything from vodka tonics to cakes. Whole fresh lemons are packed in bags filling the entire bottom shelf of the refrigerator where they remain fresh for weeks. A glass jar containing quartered lemons preserved in salt, spices and olive oil will also be made. Just a small piece of this salty, tangy preserve is divine in almost everything savoury. If I can pace its use and eke it, a 32 oz. jar will last us long after the season is over. My recipe for preserved lemons is not the tried and true method for traditional preserved lemons or lemon pickles from the delicious cuisines of the Indian subcontinent and Morocco. There, lemons are allowed to ferment at room temperature for weeks or months before being used. I am an impatient cook so I devised a use-on-the-same-day method that is quite delicious and this is the recipe I thought I would share with you.
First things first, try to get organic or unsprayed lemons. You will be preserving the entire lemon including the skin, so it is important that the fruits do not have any chemical residue. I find that batches of about 12 lemons in a 32 oz canning jar is ideal. Stored in the fridge until ready to use, the texture will be soft, even spreadable, the flavour salty and intensely lemony! These preserved lemons will last a few months in the refrigerator and you only need the smallest amount to flavour stews, tagines, bean spreads or hummus, salad dressings, sauces and gravies. Add also to roasted chicken, grilled fish and vegetables .....in fact, I love it so much that I spread it on warm bread and butter!
Quick Preserved Lemons
you will need a 32 oz, sterilized canning bottle with a tight fitted lid.
6 - 8 Jamaican lemons, or 12 smaller variety lemons, for the preserve
8 oz. lemon juice
6 whole Cardamom berries - crushed shell and seeds
1 bundle of fresh thyme or 2 T. dried
6 Pimento berries
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
12 whole black peppercorns
1 chilli or Scotch Bonnet pepper - sliced and seeded
4 oz. coarse sea salt - equally divided
8 oz. Extra Virgin Olive oil, more if necessary for covering the preserved lemons
1. Wash, dry, and quarter the lemons. Seeding the lemons are optional. I like the bitterness of the seeds, so I leave them in for cooking and remove them before using, however, you may with to remove them at this stage.
2. Place 3 Tbl. of olive oil in a cast iron pot or heavy bottomed skillet. Heat on medium flame. Add the spices and pepper and stir. Saute until aromatic, but be careful not to allow the spices to burn.
3. Add the lemon quarters to the pot. You want to saute the lemons for a few minutes to develop a nice golden brown colour before turning. Turn, and saute the other side.
4. Add the rest of the oil, lemon juice and salt. Give a good stir. Cover and simmer on a low flame for about 7 -10 minutes or until the lemon quarters are soft to the touch.
5. Remove the pot from the flame. Spoon the lemon quarters, spices and liquid in to a sterilised jar. Press the lemons down to compact them in the jar and remove any air bubbles. Add more olive oil if needed to cover the lemons completely. Cap and when cool, place in the fridge.
6. Add small strips of the preserved lemon and a tsp. or so of the the lemon salted oil liquid to stews, soups, spreads, sauces, gravies and salad dressings. Serve alongside grilled poultry, fish and roasted or steamed vegetables. A little goes a long way so taste before adding too much to your dishes!
Try roasted carrots with slivers of the preserved lemons! Roasting brings out the sweetness of the carrots and the combination with the salty lemon is delicious.
Happy lemony days! 🍋🍃🍋
Quick Preserved Lemon