Saturday, December 19, 2015
California lemon season lasts from December to May, though lemons may remain on the tree all year here if they're not picked. They're delicious juiced, zested, infused in wine, and whipped into lemon meringue pies. But I find that only goes so far in really maximizing the lemon harvest. Enter, preserved lemons.
Preserved lemons have a bright, briny flavor and chewy texture. They can be used in risotto, lemon and artichoke pasta, chopped with parsley for an out-of-this-world gremolata, and to make a boss harissa. They also make a perfect easy DIY Christmas gift.
Some recipes call for preserving lemons for several weeks. Although the flavor does improve over time, you can begin using the lemons in as few as five days after preserving them. Here is my recipe for quick preserved lemons, loosely based on a recipe in the cookbook Gjelina by Travis Lett. My version is much smaller and designed for home kitchens.
Yield 1/2 pint
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
2 lemons, scrubbed
1/4 cup sea salt
1/4 teaspoon red chili flake
1. Toast the coriander and fennel seed in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the red chili flake and set aside.
2. Cut the lemons into wedges lengthwise.
3. Pour one tablespoon of salt and a generous pinch of the spices into a perfectly clean mason jar. Squeeze the juice from two of the lemon wedges into the jar and swirl gently. Stuff the lemon rinds down into the salt and juice.
4. Top with another tablespoon of salt and a pinch of spices. Squeeze the juice from another two lemon quarters into the jar and then add the rinds. Repeat until the jar is full and the lemon rinds are fully submerged in juice, finishing with salt and spices. You may end up using all of the juice but not having room for two of the lemon rinds.
5. Cover with a clean lid and place in a cool dark place for five days before using. Refrigerate after opening.