Saturday, January 22, 2011

Citrus Heaven

One of the most wonderful things about returning to Vejer from a wintry UK is the wonderful sight of the orange trees in Los Remedios, laden with glistening bright naranjas. This time of the year, freshly squeezed orange juice is at its best. Mother Nature having her hand in our winter injection of Vit C no doubt!
Everyone in town knows someone with orange and lemon trees in the Campo (countryside), so I'm luckily always being offered bagfuls of these wonderful Andalucian winter fruits. However, I remain mesmerised by the thrill of picking my own. Scratching the skin of a newly picked lemon can push me into the realms of a dream world. I wonder if in a previous life I maybe made my fortune from lemons or perhaps I was the Goddess of Lemons (who was she???). There is definitely something about freshly picked lemons that makes my heart sing.

Preserved Lemons originate from Morocco and have been used in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries. Preserved in salt and spring water for weeks before use, the salt introduces another flavour to the bitterness of the lemon, creating a salty lemony explosion in your mouth like nothing else in the world!

There appears to be no definitive recipe on how to preserve lemons but the method described below, works for me. You can Google and watch films on YouTube to give you more confidence for your first time.

Preserved lemons are a shockingly wonderful addition to loads of dishes. Here are some of the ways we use them at Annie B's Spanish Kitchen - wonderfuly mixed with carrots & carrot puree, diced & mixed with other goodies through Bulgar wheat or couscous, stuffed into a chicken before roasting (breast side down of course so that all the yumminess soaks into the breast during cooking), diced & sprinkled with parsley, tuna, onion, olive oil & Sherry vinegar then folded through hot potatoes.

Before use,they need to be rinsed, the flesh pulled away, discarded and just the skin used.

In the UK, you need to seek out unwaxed, preferably organic lemons. The skin should not be shiny, which indicates it has been waxed.

Here is how I preserve my lemons.

Sterilize a jar big enough to hold the lemons you wish to preserve. Wash and scrub the lemons. Cut into quarters but NOT all the way to the bottom. The lemon should open out like a flower. Pack rock or sea salt(at least a tablespoon) into the lemon by opening out each half making sure that all exposed flesh is in contact/covered with salt. Pack lemons one by one into the jar. Add another couple of tablespoons of salt, perhaps even a Cinnamon stick and a few bay leaves and cover with bottled water. I leave half an inch at the top of the jar to fill with olive oil.. Turn the jar upside down every couple of days until you can see that all the salt has dissolved. Leave for a month before use. I never keep mine in the fridge. Lemons were preserved in the days before fridges were available.



Michiel said...

I want them!
They should do that here in Antarctica before the winter comes, so they can still enjoy a bit of summer in the Winter time.


Chef Adrienne said...

Oh, the excitement of citrus. It never wears off, does it?
I gave preserved lemons as a Christmas gift this year.
Love your easy, simple recipe. I'll add olive oil next time. Cheers!