I didn’t understand how much fun preserving food could be. At it’s heart, it’s about sustenance and security, but for me it’s becoming a way of taking even more control over my food and wrenching every last bit of flavor from it that I can.
Preserved lemons are a magical umami ingredient that I won’t ever be without again.
Adapted from the recipe by Clara Inés Schuhmacher and J. Kenji López-Alt at SeriousEats.com.
Fresh Lemons (or other citrus)
Extra Lemon Juice
Mix salt and sugar to a 2:1 ratio (two parts salt to one part sugar). I usually start with 1/2 cup salt and 1/4 cup of sugar, and mix more if I need it.
Trim the stem end from the lemons and cut the into quarters from top to bottom. Toss the lemons in a portion of the salt-sugar in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
In a sterilized jar, layer a bit of the salt-sugar into the bottom of the jar. Add a layer of lemon, and top with more salt-sugar. Using a muddler or pickle stick (see notes) to press the lemons together in the jar. Repeat this layering until the jar is almost full.
Top the jar off with the juice-salt-sugar from the bowl. Add more lemon juice or distilled water if necessary to submerge the lemons. Seal the jar with a good lid and leave the jar on the countertop.
Turn the jar daily or as often as you can. The lemons will be ready in as few as two weeks, but only get better with age. Try to wait at least a month.
Move the jars to the fridge and store for up to six months.
This is less a recipe than a method and is open to serious variations. Some recipes call for a 70/30 ratio of salt to sugar. Spices can also be added (clove and/or cinnamon, for example) to bring other flavors to the party.
You can preserve other citrus this way. Keep in mind, though that fruits like oranges aren't quite as acidic and will need to be reinforced with lemon juice.
Many recipes call for the lemons to be "nearly" quartered, by not cutting all the way through the lemon so that the four pieces remain connected to each other at one end. I'm not sure if this is just a traditional hold over, or a it's intended to make it easier to dole out one lemon's worth of preserves. Whatever the case, I quarter mine completely so that they'll fit better into the jars. I've had no issue doing it this way, and quarters seem to me to be a good measure of to work from when adding this ingredient to my own recipes.
Some recipes call for the jarred lemons to be transferred to the fridge immediately. This method was invented well before refrigeration even existed, so I'm not sure it's really necessary. I can't imagine anything could grow in such a salty acidic environment. I tend to leave mine out on the counter indefinitely. That's up to you. Your mileage may vary. Buyer beware.
A pickle stick (or kraut stick) is used to press cabbage or other vegetables into a crock for fermentation.
Light and creamy lemon with a hint of lavender, inspired by a glass of lemonade I had once at a Planned Parenthood Abortion Rights rally in 2022.
2 tbsp Cream Cheese
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
3/4cup Preserved Lemon Curd
1cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 tsp Angel Bake brand Lavender extract
In a large microwave-safe bowl, microwave the cream cheese for 10 seconds on high. Add the sugar, and beat with a whisk attachment in a stand mixer for a minimum of 60 seconds. The goal is to mostly dissolve the sugar into the cream cheese. Add the vanilla extract and continue mixing until incorporated.
Stop the mixer and add the preserved lemons curd. Mix slowly until fully incorporated and the sugar is dissolved. Make sure to scrape the bowl.
Reduce the speed and slowly add the heavy whipping cream. Once incorporated, slowly add the milk. Mix on medium for a minute until the batter is completely mixed.
Pour into Creami container and freeze for 24 hours minimum.
When ready to serve, remove the Creami container from the freezer and process immediately.
The Oleo Saccharum experiments have been super fun. I started with the Sweeties my partner picked up from Sam’s Club the other week. She wasn’t as fond of eating them as she thought she might be. When I discovered Oleo, I was super excited, but when I discovered Jeffrey Morgenthaler‘s technique using a vacuum sealer I was in. I had been contemplating a vacuum sealer anyway and this seemed as good as any to finally jump in (the Noma fermentation book is the other reason I was planning to pick one up).
I made a batch with a half dozen or so of the Sweeties (aka Oroblanco, similar to a grapefruit). The bitter and floral notes of the fruit were really strong, almost overpowering. At first I was a bit disheartened, but the cocktail I made with it using some Mexcal and elderflower tonic water was pretty delicious and gave me a bit of hope. YouTube did me a solid and recommended the How to Drink video for making this magical elixir.
Greg macerates his oleo for a day, then simmers the result with an additional cup each of water and sugar. I decided to re-macerate the Sweeties zest I had and try again. I also prepped an entire bag of Lemons for their own batch while I was at it. I’m sure I’ll eventually blend various citruses, but right now I’m keeping them separated as I learn the process and begin to understand the potential of all these intense versions of these flavors.
After macerating in a vacuum bag overnight, I poured the entire contents of the lemon bag into a medium sauce pot. I used the water to rinse the bag. It finally dawned on me after processing the Sweeties, that I should only cut a corner so I could really slosh the water around and pick up all the sugar and citrus oil left behind. Pot on medium high to bring it peels and syrup up to temp. After about ten minutes of constant stirring, I poured the syrup through a fine strainer and funnel into a bottle for storing in the fridge. The Sweeties got the same treatment.
An ounce and half of the lemon syrup into ice and topped with club soda made a nice non-alcoholic drink. Adding an equal measure of vodka and you have a nice version of a Lemon Drop.
The leftover peels went onto parchment where I coated and tossed them with granulated sugar. I’ll dry them in the oven and jar them for garnish and treats. They won’t be as flavorful as more traditionally processed candied peel, but the tester tastes I had were pretty good already.
Oleo Saccharum is another super easy way to add a flavor option to your bag of tricks.
Add water, milk, pasta, and a large pinch salt to a sauce pot and bring to boil over high heat, stir occasionally. Reduce heat to medium once boiling. Use the time on the noodle package to gage how long it will take. Remove from heat.
In a separate bowl, mix cheeses with cornstarch to coat.
Remove from heat. Add butter and black pepper.
Add cheese mixture to pot and stir to melt. Return to low heat if you need to finish melting.
Taste for seasoning & add additional salt if needed. Garnish with additional shredded cheeses, black pepper.
Toasted panko crumbs are a great garnish. Add a half cup panko to a couple tablespoons of ghee in a sauté pan on medium high until golden brown.
Over the last month or so I’ve been aging some wine into vinegar. Last night we had a friend over so I pulled them out for their weekly tasting and set us up with a tasting flight.
Each one had a unique and delicious flavor, even the youngest of the bunch, the red wine vinegar. You can still taste the wine as it’s turning, and the blend of flavor is interesting.
I think my favorite right now is the Muscat. Very mild nose, and super delicious light, sweet tartness.
Vinegar is an easy way to explore fermentation. It’s basically foolproof… add twenty-percent of live vinegar to a volume of alcohol that’s no more than 7% abv and wait. In a few weeks you’ll have the beginnings of your own home brewed vinegar.