Lemons, lemons, lemons!

I have always loved lemon bars. I’ll call that my gateway drug into the world of lemons. And last year I received a jar of preserved lemons as a Christmas gift from a pastry chef friend (he gave friends jars of caramel sauce, grapefruit-ginger marmalade, and preserved lemons – he said I was the only one who was excited about the lemons and knew what they were. Travesty!) I was determined to try out lemon preserving projects but, being me, I was not content to go to the grocery store and purchase lemons. I waited almost a year until lemons were in season again in California. Then I ordered a 10 pound case of organic Meyer lemons. They arrived. And they were lovely and worth the wait!

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At first I thought 10 pounds wouldn’t be enough, but it proved to be ample for the following projects:

  • 3 1/2 pints of lemon curd
  • 5 pints of lemon marmalade
  • 3 pints preserved lemons

This was some serious preserving fun. I called this my last wild kitchen fling before Lytle arrived, and here’s the evidence of my fun:

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Even though the lemons were organic, James and I washed them all. Marmalade and preserved lemons being rind-dependent it seemed the prudent thing to do. Once in a great while, I can be responsible in the kitchen.

For both the marmalade and the curd, I followed recipes from the book Food in Jars (click here to see the Food in Jars blog and eight excellent things to do with Meyer lemons!). The curd was lovely and simple, if not egg-yolk heavy and therefore expensive. Definitely more of a treat than a kitchen staple. The marmalade was time-consuming and sticky, but also tasty. I’ll definitely make small batches of both again next year.

But oh, the preserved lemons! Minimal ingredients, maximum use of the lemons, simple to prepare, delicious and ridiculously versatile. I might buy 10 pounds again next year just for preserved lemons. And I keep throwing the term around like everyone must know what I mean, but in case you have never experienced them they are quartered lemons stuffed with salt (I used 1 T or so of coarse sea salt) and left to soften in a brine. You leave them in the jar for a few weeks, gently turning the jar around to move the brine. Then take the jars out of the brine, stuff them into a new jar and refrigerate. I have not looked into any canning methods for the lemons. I am guessing if left in a cool, dark place they would be fine, or that they could even be left in the brine for longer than a few weeks until ready to use. But I will save that experimenting for another year. For now, the quart jars each yielded about a pint stuffed with the lemons, which hasn’t taken up too much room in the fridge. Some people rinse the lemons before using, but I like to leave them as they are and let them be both lemon and salt for the dish I am making.

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And what exactly do I make with them? Well…

Quinoa salad with carrots, apples, raisins, and preserved lemon. Pizza with ricotta, wilted chard, and preserved lemon. Warm lentils with goat cheese and preserved lemon. Pasta with spinach, sardines, and preserved lemon. Endless! Delicious!  And so necessary in the middle of winter.

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