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Test Kitchen tips: Preserved lemons

May 8, 2012 | 11:41 am

Preserved lemons seem to be turning up in more restaurant dishes as chefs incorporate their unique flavors in a variety of recipes, and packaged preserved lemons are increasingly showing up in more specialty and gourmet markets
Introducing preserved lemons in her classic Moroccan cookbook, "Couscous and other Good Food from Morocco," Paula Wolfert wrote:

Preserved lemons, sold loose in the souks, are one of the indispensable ingredients of Moroccan cooking, used in fragrant lamb and vegetable tagines, recipes for chicken with lemons and olives, and salads. Their unique pickled taste and special silken texture cannot be duplicated with fresh lemon or lime juice, despite what some food writers have said.

Preserved lemons seem to be turning up in more restaurant dishes as chefs incorporate their unique flavors in a variety of recipes, and packaged preserved lemons are increasingly showing up in more specialty and gourmet markets. As increasingly available as they may be commercially, preserved lemons are just as easily made at home -- so long as you give them sufficient time (30 days) to ripen. And they make excellent homemade gifts for the cooks in your life. Continue reading below for Wolfert's recipe for preserved lemons.

Check out these recipes from the Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen that feature preserved lemons:

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

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Photo: Roast chicken with preserved lemon. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Preserved lemons

Working time: 10 minutes

Ripening time: 30 days

From "Couscous and other Good Food from Morocco" by Paula Wolfert.

Ingredients:

5 lemons

1/4 cup salt, more if desired

Optional Safi mixture:

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

5 to 6 coriander seeds

3 to 4 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

Freshly squeezed lemon juice, if necessary

1. If you wish to soften the peel, soak the lemons in lukewarm water for 3 days, changing the water daily.

2. Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, then reshape the fruit.

3. Place 1 tablespoon of salt on the bottom of a sterile 1-pint mason jar. Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt, and the optional spices, between layers. Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons. (If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice -- not chemically produced lemon juice and not water.) Leave some air space before sealing the jar.

4. Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. Let ripen for 30 days.

To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under running water, removing and discarding the pulp, if desired -- and there is no need to refrigerate after opening. Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year.

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