Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Adventures with Lemons

I first had preserved lemons in the deli up the road called 103 (sadly now, no more). They had been finely chopped with spring onions, tomatoes, chick peas, tossed with olive oil, served under grilled snapper. Simple food made delicious. I recreated the recipe at home, but could not find preserved lemons and it didn't taste the same. 

Time passed.

My favourite foodie across the pond, La Diva blogged about preserving lemons soon after I saw Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast. He was in Morocco and pretty much all of the dishes had preserved lemons. I remembered 103's dish and a bee settled in my bonnet.

I am fortunate to spend time with a man who isn't at all phased by bees in bonnets, Lawrence seems to think it's completely normal. So when I said to him that I wanted to find preserved lemons, he didn't blink. He did however, walk me all over Norwich through every flippin ethnic food shop we could think of, to see if we could find preserved lemons. To no avail. 

*sigh*

We talked about making it ourselves. 

I did this 'sure, let's' noise and focused on other things. It was Lawrence who researched recipes for preserving lemons. There are many ways to skin that cat. He found this recipe and as it was from the man himself, and it looked fairly straightforward, we went with that one. 

We bought a Kilner jar and a couple of nets full of unwaxed lemons. Oh yeah, and a fuck load of salt. Yes, we really did end up spending about 10 minutes debating the kind of salt to buy. This is the side-effect of dating someone who is a Details Person*. 

Lawrence then spent the journey home thinking about sterilising the jar. As a food scientist, he has slightly different ideas about hygiene than me. Also, he was concerned about the comment in the blog where he found the recipe; a guy called Dave complained that his lemons went mouldy in the first week of the process. 

In the end, we boiled the bejeezus out of the jar (the rubber seal we did separately), with Lawrence checking the temperature of the boiling water with his handy-dandy thermometer. Doesn't everyone walk around with a digital food thermometer? He measured out the salt, adjusting for the fact we were doing 10 lemons instead of 6. I quartered them, but not fully; just enough to open them up and pack the salt into them. We stuffed them into the jar, and sealed it all up. It then went into my kitchen cupboard. It's where I store my booze. It's cool and dark, apparently perfect for preserving lemons.

There they sat, undisturbed for a week. Until Sunday. The salt had drawn the juice and filled half the jar already. I bought a couple of nets of cheap lemons which I juiced and poured in to cover them. Lawrence had been concerned that we'd put too much salt. My argument was we didn't want them to go mouldy, and was there really such a thing as too much salt when preserving? I couldn't figure out why I couldn't cover the lemons fully. I had to add cooled boiled water and those suckers kept bobbing up. Afterwards, my favourite food scientist said that much salt changed the gravity of the juice - hence they kept trying to float. In the end, I threw in a couple of sprigs of rosemary from my garden and three dried chillies and added olive oil to cover everything by a couple of centimetres. I sealed it all up, and back into the cupboard it went.

And now we wait. The longer we wait, the better the flavour. 

*sigh*

But here's a picture of our hard work:



It's going to be awhile until we get to the middle of February. Oh boy.

*Details Person. The title my brother gives to people, like our father, who love the details involved in any given task. They have OCD tendencies when following recipes, instructions, putting together flat-pack furniture. Not a character trait he and I inherited - we're more liassez-faire in our approach.

6 comments:

  1. Oooh, let us know how they go. I've never tried preserved lemons, but they sound interesting.
    We've got three lemon trees, and we couldn't give away all of the fruit, so it could be something to try this year! :)

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    1. I certainly will! I'm looking forward to the cooking with them so very much.

      I wish you lived closer, I'd have your lemons. I'd make Lawrence get a lemon press. It's a super sexy bit of kit to squeeze loads of the suckers.

      Damn.
      xx

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  2. Anxiously awaiting result of this unknown (to me) treat.

    Disclosure: I am also a Details Person when it comes to reading instruction manuals (I wrote them in a past life), following assembly directions, and recipes (at least the first time). Sorry.

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    1. I know, they are taking for-ever! If I hadn't have tasted them for myself, I'd have passed. But they are totally scrumptious.

      You realise that there will then be posts on the food we've cooked with them?

      Disclosure: I like Details People. You guys have the patience to go through the small-print and get to the nitty gritty. And because you've read the instructions, you'll know why after I put everything together I have a handful of screws left, and how to fix it.

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  3. One can learn from Details People. They do the research so that I don't have to. I love preserved lemons but haven't tried it myself, so want to know the results. Please, then you can be my Details Person xxx

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    1. Absolutely. I let Details People do that whole interpretation of recipes and instructions and then I carry on.

      I will certainly let you know how they turn out.

      We are currently looking for recipes to cook with them.

      xx

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