"Lots of cultures, from North Africa to Italy to Asia, came up with the idea of salting lemons as a way to keep them throughout the year. But in Morocco, that necessity really turned into the mother of invention, ultimately creating a culinary phenomenon that had a huge effect on the cuisine, to the extent that the preserved lemon completely displaced the fresh article. Moroccans don't even think of fresh lemons in connection with food beyond garnishing drinks and making lemonade." ~Mourad Lahou
The new object of my affection is cookbook Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou. The self trained chef is owner of Aziza restaurant located in the Richmond district of San Francisco. I'm gearing up to prepare a Morrocan feast in July, so my first step is to prepare preserved lemons.
This recipe is adapted from from Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan ©2011). If you are even remotely interested in Morocco and Moroccan cooking, this cook book is for you. I devoured it - metaphorically, of course - from cover to cover.
I highly recommend removing and saving the peel from the lemons that you will be juicing. Lemon peel freezes well. When I find that I have a lot of lemons to juice, and I have a surplus of lemon peels, for me, I gotta make Limoncello. If that plan fails for whatever reason, there's always the option of preparing the best Lemon Cake on the planet.
Ingredients for a for a 1-quart batch:
About 6 Eureka or Lisbon lemons (avoid Meyer)
About 6 to 10 lemons for juicing
About 2 Tbsps of Diamond® kosher salt per lemon
1. Sterilize the jars and lids that you will be using either by boiling on the stove top for 20 minutes or by running through the dishwasher. Keep both lids and jars warm until ready to use.
1. Scrub the lemons really well with soap and warm water. Dry thoroughly.
2. Carefully cut six lemons into quarters, stopping within 1/2-inch from the stem. The lemon will be quartered, but still intact.
3. Spread the four quarters open and fill with as much salt as you can, up to 2 tablespoons. Place the lemon cut side up (to keep the salt in place) in the sterilized jar. Repeat with as many lemons as the jar will hold, pushing down so the lemons are packed into the jar. Put the lid on and let sit overnight.
4. The next day, press down on the lemons and add an additional salted lemon if space is available. If there's only a little rooom, it is fine to add a salted half or quarter lemon.
5. Juice the remaining lemons, a few at a time, pouring the juice into the jar until it is filled to the brim and the lemons are completely submerged.
6. Put the lid on the jar, turning it until it's just finger-tight. Put the jars in a dark spot such as a cupboard or pantry, but definitely not in the refrigerator. For the next week, shake the jar once a day to help dissolve the salt. Add more lemon juice if you notice that the lemons are no longer submerged.
7. Let the lemons rest for a month. If you notice a little bubbling around the edge of the jar lid, don't be concerned. It is a normal part of the fermentation process.
8. After a month, the lemons on top may have floated above the surface of the liquid, and they may have oxidized a bit, which is no problem. The lemon peel might be a little brown, but it is edible.
"In Morocco, it's usually only the yellow rind of the preserved lemon, stripped of most of its white pith, that's used in cooking. In some long-cooked dishes a whole preserved lemon is sometimes simply thrown into the mix, and it eventually just melts away, but most of the time, the rind is used, and th erest of the fruit is discarded. That said, you may want to use the entire thing - and even they syrupy brining liquid - in various ways, as I often do. It all depends on the lemons you start with and your personal tolerance for flavor intensity." ~Mourad Lahlou