Some time ago I was queuing at a supermarket till when a lady came up to me, pointed at a lemon in my basket and asked how much they cost. For some reason I knew that Sainsburies valued this solitary fruit at 24p and when I told the lady she almost fainted. In the ensuing conversation she explained that in her home town in Italy lemons grew in the streets and their sale value was a few pence.
I resisted the temptation to invite her to poke around the suburbs of Derby in a hunt for low hanging fruit but there is a point to this tale. The lemon is ubiquitous in many countries. Yet while it may be low in financial value it is in fact an immensely valuable commodity with a wide range of applications. In particular I feel that the British under utilise it in cooking, probably because it is not native to the UK.
Here is a “recipe” I use every few months to ensure that my fridge is always stocked with Preserved Lemons. I say recipe but it’s as much a recipe as buttered toast except that the end results are much more pleasing. I chop them up and use them to lift cous cous or transform a salad. Not only is this a differentiating ingredient but preserved lemons are easy to make and they keep for ages. They are preserved after all…
You will need a clean air-tight jar. It needs to be sterile so I fill a previously washed kilner jar with boiling water to ensure that it is pristine and ready for action.
1) Imagine slicing a lemon lengthways into 4 quarters. Well you want to make the same slits but not quite as deep so the lemon remains intact.
2) Now hold each slit open and pour in some table salt (approx 1 teaspoon)
3) Put the lemon into the jar and repeat until the jar is tightly packed with lemons. Then squeeze the juice of 1 or 2 more lemons into the jar along with a sprinkle more of salt.
4) Pour boiling water into the jar almost to the top. Let me state the obvious by pointing out that the jar is going to be very hot at this stage.
5) Secure the lid and leave the jar for perhaps 5 weeks. I find the preserving process seems to work better if the jar is left at room temperature for a couple of weeks and then transferred to the fridge.
6) When you want to use some of the lemon simply pull off a quarter, cut out the inner gloop and chop the rind.
What you have is zingy lemony yummyness without the sour saltiness you might expect. The future is preserving. The future is yellow!