I began making my first preserved lemons today because I love Moroccan and Middle Eastern food but I can never bring myself to spend £3.99 on a jar of them in the supermarket. When I can find a supermarket that stocks them, that is. Unless you are lucky enough to have a lemon tree in your back garden, homemade preserved lemons still aren’t that thrifty, but when kept in a nice Kilner jar they make beautiful gifts for the foodies in your life and they are a very quick and easy starter project for a novice preserver. To make these lemons I have read the advice of David Lebovitz, Julian Glover and BBC Good Food, and followed my own sense.
NB: This is not a good thing to do if you have recently been gardening without gloves on.
Spiced preserved lemons
Clip-top Kilner jars
Lemons and lemon juice: enough to fill your jars to the brim. You’ll need up to 18 lemons to fill a 1 litre Kilner jar
Maldon sea salt crystals, about 1 tbsp per lemon
Seasonings of your choice, I used:
Fresh bay leaves
Black onion seeds
To sterilise your jars, thoroughly wash them in hot soapy water and put the clean jars in a preheated oven (140 degrees celsius) for 15-20 mins.
Now prepare your lemons. It is always best to use organic, unwaxed lemons for preserving, but I admit I used regular waxed lemons. I remove the thin coating of wax from lemons by submerging them in boiling water and giving them a light scrub with a brand new, clean scouring pad.
Dry the lemons on a clean tea towel, they should be soft to the touch and have lost their gloss. It is well worth removing the wax from any lemons you intend to use the zest of, to release all the lovely fragrant oils. Also, because the wax used to coat lemons contains shellac and all sorts of other unpalatable nasties, the idea of chewing away on a skin coated in ground beetles is a little off-putting.
When your lemons are clean, quarter them lengthways leaving the core and both ends so that they still hold together as whole fruits.
Stuff each cut with course sea salt. Each lemon should hold about half a tablespoon of salt.
Press the lemons into your sterilised jars and add the spices and layer them up with more salt.
Clip the jars shut. As the lemons begin to soften and release their juice over the next 2-3 days, repeat the process with more lemons until your jars are crammed full with fruits, salt and spices. If the lemons have not released enough juices to cover them after this time, you will need to add additional lemon juice to make sure the fruits are totally submerged.
When the jars are filled with fruit, juice, spices and salt, clip their lids tight shut and leave to mature for at least a month before serving. If there is no air left in the jar and the fruits are fully submerged the lemons should keep well for at least six months. If in doubt, store them in the fridge.
When ready to serve, remove the lemons from the jar with a fork (not your fingers), rinse off the salt and chop the skins into small chunks or slices to add to sauces, salads and spicy stews. The silky lemon juice that they sit in is also tasty in a Bloody Mary, so I hear.
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