Preserved lemons

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Make preserved lemons with ripe, new-season fruit that have not been waxed. Store-bought lemons are usually coated with wax, which has to be removed by scrubbing in warm water with a soft-bristle brush; even then it is very difficult to remove. Pieces of pickled lemon may be washed before using to remove any surface salt, or blanched to remove more of the salt and bring out the natural mild sweetness. They may then be sliced, chopped, or minced as needed for the texture of the dish. The rind may be used with or without the pulp. Preserved lemon is the key ingredient in many Moroccan dishes such as tagines. In Cambodian cuisine, it is used in dishes such as Ngam nguv, a chicken soup with whole preserved lemons. They are often combined in various ways with olives, artichokes, seafood, veal, chicken, and rice. Lemon Pickle is a standard accompaniment to curd rice, which is often the last course in South Indian Cuisine.

Ingredients:

8 – 12 thin-skinned new-season lemons

rock salt

1 – 2 extra lemons

black peppercorns, optional

bay leaves, optional

preserved lemons

Preparation:

To prepare a storage jar, preheat the oven to 120°C. Wash the jar and lid in hot soapy water and rinse with hot water. Put the jar in the oven for 20 minutes, or until fully dry. Do not dry with a tea towel.

If lemons are very firm, soak in water to cover for 3 days, changing water daily. Wash lemons if soaking not required. Cut from stem end into quarters almost to the base, but not all the way through. Insert 1 tbsp rock salt in each lemon, close it up and place in a jar. repeat until the jar is filled, sprinkling 1 tbsp salt between the layers. Pack lemons into the jar as tightly as possible and add a bay leaf and a few black peppercorns to each jar, if desired.

Wash extra lemons and add the juice of 1 lemon to each jar. Fill with slightly cooled, boiled water. Put the washed skin from a squeezed-out lemon half on top so that if any white film forms on top (which is harmless), the skin can be discarded when the jar is opened. Seal and store in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks to dissolve the salt. The cloudy liquid clears in this time. Lemons will keep for 6 months or more. Once jar is opened, store in the refrigerator.

To prepare for cooking, remove a lemon with a clean fork. Separate it into quarters and rinse under running water. Remove pulp and discard. Rinse the rind, pat dry with paper towel and use as directed in recipes.