Monday, July 14, 2014

Preserved Lemons

When my husband and I were dating, before we created people who require restaurants where The Game is on, we used to go to a little Indian place downtown. It was practically underground, and I guess they were aiming for mood lighting. As we waited for our pupils to dilate, they brought us poppadoms and an amazing red condiment. It was briny chunks of red something which the waitress just called "lemon pickle." I'm sure that stuff came out of an industrial-sized jar along with the coriander and tamarind sauces, but we devoured it. Since then, I've bought a lot of jars labeled Lemon Pickle, but they all tasted like kerosene.

Weirdly enough, it was a recipe in an Israeli cookbook that got me the closest. If you love salty, sour, spicy foods, Balaboosta by Einat Admony is the book for you. I played around with her recipe a bit, taking out some salt, adding more pepper. Now I use these lemons to perk up a sandwich, dress a chicken, or in salsas. And if you add chopped onions, it tastes just like the "Lemon Pickle" in the dark restaurants of my youth. Yes, this recipe does take three months to complete. But I've been waiting 15 years to find it.

Namaste and L'Chayim!

Preserved Lemons
1/3 cup kosher salt (90g)
2 tablespoons sugar (30g)
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (5g)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (5g)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
7-8 medium lemons
2 bay leaves

1 liter jar, wide mouth

In a bowl, stir together the salt, sugar, coriander, pepper, turmeric and paprika. Scrub the lemons and slice into wedges, removing the stems and seeds. Pour half the salt mixture in the bottom of the jar, then pack the lemons in tightly all the way to the top. As you go, squeeze each wedge slightly to begin releasing the juice. Slide the bay leaves in, then top with the rest of the salt mixture. Add water just to fill in the air pockets, then seal the jar and write the date on top. (You really think you'll remember without marking it? Girl, please!)

At first, the salt will collect at the bottom of the jar, but don't worry. Within a month, the liquid will thicken as the pectin breaks down. I think the jar is pretty, so I store it on a shelf in my kitchen. Wherever you put it (not the fridge), give it a shake every day or two. In 90 days, you'll have preserved lemons. Enjoy them as a briny condiment, peels and all.

Or make Pistachio Lemon Salsa.

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