Friday, November 30, 2012

Recipe: Preserved Lemons (Morocco)

Preserved Lemons are an essential ingredient in Moroccan cooking and widely available in most Middle Eastern and North African Bazaars.

Like garam masala powder, jeera powder, chilli powder etc are widely used in Indian cooking, but rarely made at home in India, similarly most families in MENA (Middle East North Africa) buy their preserved lemons from the market.

This recipe is from a friends mother. I haven't tried making it at home yet, but a friend who saw my recipe for Mqualli - Moroccan Chicken Tajine with Preserved Lemon & Olives asked for a recipe that she could make at home, so I'm sharing it here.

I've approximated weights and measures a bit to compensate for aunty's eyeballing it version.

This is one of my bookmarked projects for the coming summer when the days are drier and hotter (the best time to make pickles). I'll add pictures at that time.

10-12 lemons (not the tiny Indian limes, you want the larger ones closer in size to lemons)
3/4 cup (150-175 gms)of coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup (50-60ml) lemon juice
boiling water to cover the lemons in the jar

Scrub the lemons and rinse well in running water.
Cut the lemons in quarters lengthways but leave a bit of the base at the bottom, so they continue to be held together like petals of a flower.
Seperate the quarters slightly (without breaking off) and salt the inside of the lemons.
Stack the lemons, base first (to prevent salt falling out) in a sterilised jar.
Sprinkle the peppercorns and insert the bay leaves between the salted lemons and pour in the lemon juice.
Add enough boiling water to submerge the lemons and almost fill the jar
Place a weight on the lemons to keep them submerged.
Seal the jar and store in a dark place for 1-4 months.

When ready to use, remove the weight and discard any white film that may have formed on the surface of the liquid.

If you are very careful with your handling, you can store the preserved lemons outside, but it may be safer to store in the refrigerator.

When cooking with preserved lemons, normally the flesh, seeds and membranes are scooped out and discarded. The skin is rinsed and cut to use in dishes. (Personally, I like using the flesh too, it reminds me of the taste & texture of Indian achaars.)

Kim's Tips:
Remember, if you are preserving skins of any fruit/vegetable (in jams or pickles) and live in Europe/North America, you need to be careful and consciously choose unwaxed fruit.

Since you are preserving lemons with salt (acid & salt) be sure to use a glass or ceramic jar ONLY for storing, preferably with a non metallic lid.

Since you have to add boiling water to the lemons, it needs to be a thicker glass jar/bottle to handle the heat without cracking.

The weight would be a stone of some kind, it needs to be non-organic and non-metallic.

The preserving liquid can be boiled and reused for the next batch to make it more intense, but it depends on how well the liquid has kept

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