Skipstone Books published my first book, Urban Pantry, and continues to put out awesome books that support and encourage a self-sustaining lifestyle. Last fall, they published The Urban Farm Handbook to be used as “City-Slicker Resources for Growing, Raising, Sourcing, Trading, and Preparing What You Eat.” Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols penned the book and recently asked me to join their Urban Farm Handbook Challenge.
With that, here is a great recipe for getting farm-y in the city. It’s an awesome and easy way to stock your pantry and a super easy and affordable option for Christmas gift giving – Preserved Lemons.
To make preserved lemons yourself, you can use regular lemons or Meyer lemons when they are in season (in winter). Cut off the blossom end of the lemon. Slice the lemons in quarters, leaving the end intact so they are split open into fours, but still “whole” lemons. Rub each lemon in salt (about 1 tablespoon per lemon), making sure to press salt into the flesh and cover the rinds. Place the lemons in a clean glass jar, and press down to expel some juices. Cover and store on the counter to monitor progress for three days. Over the next several days, the jar should fill, covering the lemons in their own juice. If after three days the lemons are not submerged in their juices, add some fresh squeezed lemon juice to cover fully. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for three to four weeks before using. After the lemons are completely soft and preserved, store them in the fridge and use within six months.
Rinse preserved lemons thoroughly in cold water before using. You must rinse off the salt, leaving behind only the sweet skin. You can scrape out the pulp and pith and finely chop or thinly slice the skins. It is also safe to use the entire lemon, but that is best used in stews or roasts. Be sure to adjust the salt in your recipe accordingly, as the preserved fruits will give off some salt.
A NOTE ABOUT PRESERVED LEMONS:
To make, lemons are sliced and rubbed with coarse salt, the juice and salt acting as the preservative. Over a few weeks the lemon rinds, pulp, and pith become soft and velvety and can be chopped and sliced for salads, relishes, stews, and more. They are delicious.
Salt has long been a means of food preservation. When this concept is applied to simple lemons, the outcome is an intensely flavored pantry ingredient that is simple to make and stores well. Preserved lemons are a staple of Moroccan cuisine but can be used in most savory dishes calling for lemon. Tasting of muted lemon, with none of the sour tang, they add a subtle undertone to dishes. Replace the fresh zest in Gremolata with preserved lemon, and you’ll instantly change the dish. Preserved lemons have a flavor unto themselves, at once clean yet rich. They can be added to a compound butter or used in long braises. They also add a nice flavor note to room-temperature salads, like Apricot– Chickpea Salad and can be used as a quick garnish to simply steamed vegetables.