When we bought our house it came with a few foodie toys. We have an overproducing olive tree that continuously scatters olives up and down the sidewalk and no matter how much we clean – it does it again the next day. (pooh) There’s a strange looking and slightly scraggly fig tree that likes to produce lots of tasteless figs. (gotta work on that) And we inherited a lemon tree.
Our lemon tree is taller than our house. It’s huge, huge, HUGE and reaches its branches wide and tall and seriously, it is huge. (Did I say that already?) But there is a total of three lemons on the tree. Okay, maybe six lemons, but it definitely is not producing the amount of lemons that it should be due to the size of the tree.
And how do I know this? Well, over the holidays I visited my friend K’s house and she asked me if I would like to take some lemons home to play with. (Who me? Yes please!) So she took me outside to pick the lemons and when I turned the corner I almost died. Seriously – died of shock right there on the cold winter ground because holy cats her lemon tree was FULL of lemons. There were so many lemons you could barely see the tree under all the lemons. It was a lemon lovers dream come true.
Instead of dying, or screaming “what’s that?” while pointing into the sky to detract my friend while I shoved as many lemons in my shirt and pants as I could and then dashing off madly towards my car in a meyer lemon induced frenzy…well, I politely picked a respectable bagful and said thank you, but still with my mouth gaping open at her absolutely beautiful lemon tree.
Can you be in love with a tree? How weird is that? Don’t answer that last question…
Resolving to fertilize and dedicate time and energy to my Charlie Brown lemon tree, I came home with my bag of meyer lemons and set to work making preserved lemons. A big batch for me and a big batch for my friend K with the amazing lemon tree. Because yes, I am trying to butter her up for another bag of lemons just in case I can’t love my tree back to health.
this recipe makes 4 jars of preserved lemons
8 lemons (meyer lemons preferred but regular lemons will work too)
4 clean pint sized mason jars with tight fitting lids
about 1 cup of assorted spices (I used black peppercorns, coriander seeds, allspice berries, dried chili peppers, cinnamon sticks and cloves)
4-6 cups kosher salt
2 pints of lemon juice
With a sharp knife, thinly slice the growth end of the lemon and discard. While holding the cut side of the lemon towards you, cut the lemon into six sections, careful not to slice all the way through the lemon. You want to keep the lemon as intact as possible but with the slices in it.
In a large bowl, pack at much kosher salt as you can into the sliced lemons. The salt will fall out but pack as much salt as the lemon will hold. Once the lemon has been packed with salt, place it in the bottom of a clean mason jar.
On top of the lemon, sprinkle some spices – a little less than 1/4 cup of combined spices – and place another lemon on top of the spices. You may have to wedge the second lemon on top and that’s okay, you want a tight fit.
After the jars are all filled with the spices and lemons, fill them to the very top with lemon juice. Attach a tight fitting lid and give those jars a good shake.
Place the jars into the refrigerator. Periodically, give the jars a shake to disperse the salt/lemon juice from the bottom of the jar and in about a month the lemons will become “preserved.”
Once the lemons are preserved, you will only use the rind of the lemon, discarding everything else. Finely mince the lemon peels and use them in sauces, vinaigrettes, and marinades. They also fit perfectly into this healthy quinoa salad, on these paprika parsnip fries, and even in this hummus.