We’ve been bitten by the preserving bug. Nearly every available surface in the kitchen is occupied by a growing collection of carefully stacked jars. It’s starting to look like a laboratory. Mason jars of every shape and size, and now Weck jars, too. We got our first cases of Weck jars in the mail last week and have been reeling with the beautiful possibilities they propose.
Preserved lemons seemed like a simple and useful thing to fill them with, and since we’re out of lime pickle, we started some limes as well. If you’ve never tasted a preserved lemon, think of the smell of lemon wood soap, and then imagine that fragrant golden aroma as a flavour. It’s the essence of lemon, stripped of all sourness. It is used in classical Indian and Moroccan cuisines, but adds radiant flavour in almost any circumstance where a savoury lemon flavour is appropriate: with fish, stuffed into a roasting chicken, in risottos and pastas, vinaigrettes and mayonnaises… It’s in the same category as a good artisanal salt: versatile, inspiring, and vaguely magical.
Part of the magic is experiencing how the combination of two simple and primal things – citrus and salt – combine over time to produce a complex and exalted third. We’re looking forward to warming the winter with the luminous flavour we’ve captured in these jars.
Here’s the technique: slice the citrus almost in quarters, leaving one end intact. Open the quarters up and sprinkle a generous teaspoon of salt into them. (For heaven’s sake don’t use industrial table salt.) Pack the salted fruits tightly into a jar, pressing down to release some juice. If you prefer, you can halve or quarter the lemons, this sometimes allows you to put more in the jar you’re using. Then you can add whatever flavours you like: bay, coriander and black pepper are simple suggestions. Close the jars and leave them at room temperature overnight – the fruit will exude some juice. If necessary, in the morning, add enough juice to cover the fruit in the jar. Refrigerate for 2-3 weeks, inverting the jars once or twice a day to distribute the juices. These preserved fruits will keep for a couple of months or so in the fridge. Make lots, and give some away.