“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” If you’ve looked at the June issue of Food & Wine you might think the new saying should be, “If life gives you lemons, preserve them.”
So if life dropped hundreds of lemons into your yard, what would you make? Once when I was out in Palm Springs, a huge branch, full of lemons, from the backyard tree landed on the patio. We picked two big shopping bags of lemons before the branch got cut down, but what to do with them?
I tossed a few in my carry-on and brought them home, originally thinking of making lemon curd. After meeting Paula Wolfort and reading The Food of Morocco, I decided to go the full-on preserved lemon route. It’s super-simple, you just need to have time to let them develop.
- 5 lemons, scrubbed and dried
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- ½ cup lemon juice
Soften the lemons by rolling them back and forth. Quarter them from the tops to within ¼” of their bottoms. Sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh and reshape the lemons. Pack them into a glass jar, pushing them down and adding more salt between the layers. Top off with the lemon juice, but leave some air space before sealing the jar.
Keep the lemons in a warm place for 30 days, occasionally turning the jar upside down to redistribute the lemon juice and salt. If necessary, add more lemon juice to keep the lemons covered. They’ll keep for a year in the refrigerator. Rinse before using, serve and enjoy!
I always have a jar of the traditional ones in my fridge and since they were running low, I bought a bunch of regular lemons, ready to go for the 30 days until the roasted (2.0) recipe crossed my path. Since I had a batch of apricots dehydrating in the oven, tossing the lemons in only made sense.
- 3 lemons, scrubbed and dried
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 200°. Slice the lemons lengthwise into 6 wedges per lemon. In an 8” ovenproof baking dish, toss the lemons with the salt. Add the lemon juice and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for about 3 hours until the peels are tender. Cool before using.
My verdict: Remember that either way, you need a few extra lemons for the juice. If you have access to Meyer lemons, both recipes recommend that you use them. Being on the wrong coast…The traditional ones have had about six months in the fridge and are exactly what you would think of as a preserved lemon with that slightly funky taste and still good citrus. The 2.0 roasted ones were very different—much fresher and more like a straight-up lemon. It will be interesting to see how they develop. My real verdict is that if you’re not sure if you’ll like them, or don’t have 30 days, go for the roasted ones (you might even try tossing the dish onto the corner of a slow grill), but you can always buy a lot of lemons and try both! If you want suggestions for using them, check out the June Food & Wine, or finely chop the rind and use it in salad dressing or try them in anything savory in place of (or in addition to) regular lemons.