I have always wanted to cook Moroccan and Mediterranean food. I even got a tagine for myself. One of the key ingredients used in the food there is preserved lemons. Firstly it was very very difficult to find them and then when I found the bottle, it was way too expensive.I thought to myself - preserved lemons is like the simple humble lemon and salt pickle that my grandma (Mom's Mom) used to make - and boy.... it has been preserved for over 50 years now. I remember mom used to get that antique bottle of the lemon and salt pickle to serve with the humble dal and rice when we were sick - as that would give some taste to the the otherwise no taste in the mouth.
So, I made the preserved lemons myself and I can say I am very happy. Now to conquer Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine.
8 yellow lemons
6 tablespoons Himalayan Pink Salt (you can use any coarse salt)
1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
1 tablespoon vinegar (optional - I used it as a preservative)
Wash ans scrub the lemons really really well. wipe them clean and let them dry on a towel for about an hour. Cut the stem or the stub off the lemon. Now cut the lemon into quarters - do not cut through - keep about 1/4 inch intact at the bottom. Do this for 6 lemons.
The other two lemons get the juice out of them and mix in the vinegar and let it sit.
Open up the lemon gently on the cut area and sprinkle the salt inside it generously. Do the same with the other 5 lemons.
Use a nice and dry jar - big enough to hold six lemons and juice. Add some salt at the bottom and a pinch of the chili powder. Squish one lemon into the jar and really squish till you see the juices coming out. and filling the jar. Add a pinch of chilli powder and squish another lemon in the same way. Layer with chili powder and squish another lemon. Repeat this till all six lemons are packed inside the jar. Add any leftover salt and chili powder and then add the lemon juice with vinegar mixed in it. Note that the lemon juice should cover all the lemons to the very top.
Cover it and let it sit in a dry and dark place for about 2 weeks. Keep turning the bottle upside down atleast 2 time every day during these 2 weeks.
The rind gets softer and thats when the lemons are ready.
You can store this in the refrigerator for 6 months.
You can add spices like cinnamon, bay-leaf, sage, peppercorns, fennel, clove, cardamom etc - alone or in combinations to make these too.
This is traditionally used in Moroccan cooking. But, I like it as a pickle with dal and rice or even curd and rice. I am planning to use it in some Indian curry too in place of tamarind - lets see how that plays.