Saturday, June 8, 2013

Moroccan Preserved lemons

Moroccan preserved lemons are pickled in brine and have a salty taste and texture which is difficult to describe.  The peel loses its bitterness and adds a very distinctive flavour to many dishes like chicken and lemon tagine

Preserved lemons are widely used in Moroccan cooking, and essential if your dishes are to taste authentic.  You can buy them, but they are hard to find in Canada and rather expensive.

Preserving your own lemons is not difficult, though you have to think about doing it 3 weeks before you need them.  But having a jar of home preserved lemons in your fridge to use any time is a good thng.  The recipe below comes from Robert Carrier's A Taste Of Morocco, unfortunately now out of print.

Enough for one jar

4 small ripe lemons, thin skinned if possible
Coarse salt
Lemon juice

Scrub lemons with a stiff brush, then place in a large glass container.  Cover with cold water and allow the lemons to soak for 3-5 days, changing the water daily.

Drain lemons.  Then using the point of a sharp knife, insert knife 1/4 inch from the bud end of each lemon and make four incisions length ways to within 1/4 inch of the other end.  Then cut through incisions in each lemon so that the lemons are cut completely through both sides, but still held together at both ends. Insert 1/4 tsp coarse salt into centre of each lemon, squeezing them open.

then arrange lemons in  a sterilized canning jar,  I ran mine through the dishwasher for this.  Sprinkle lemons in each jar with 1tbsp of coarse salt.  Add strained juice of 1 lemon to each jar.

Then add enough boiling water to cover the lemons.

Leave lemons to steep in this mixture for at least 3 weeks  in the fridge before using them.  You'll find the salty, oily picking juice is honey thick and highly flavoured this can be used in salad dressings and added to tagines.  The lemons will keep in this mixture for up to a year.

A quick easy way to use them is interspersed with chicken pieces and olives in a roasting tin.

Drizzle with olive oil and roast until the chicken is cooked through and crispy brown.  Though obviously this can be done with regular lemons, using the preserved lemons really adds a depth of flavour that an ordinary lemon can not.

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