Preserved Lemons

I picked another three dozen lemons from my generous neighbor's tree.

They're perfectly ripe. Meyer lemons are thinner-skinned then regular lemons, and have a slightly different taste and scent, a bit sweeter. I juiced a bunch - roughly a dozen makes a pint of juice for the freezer. But I wanted to try a new project, preserving them in salt.

I don't make Moroccan food very often - in fact I'm struggling to think of a Moroccan dish I've made in the last year and none come to mind. Moroccan dishes are usually where you find preserved lemons. However, we do have a roast chicken every month or so, and I always want lemons for the cavity. As you know, I hate buying anything out of season, especially if I can preserve it in season. So I thought, do folks use preserved lemons in roasted chicken? And sure enough, when googled, a dozen recipes pop up.

I did a lot of research on this a few months back when I was thinking of Christmas gifts, so I just needed to refresh my memory. Most recipes call for cutting the lemon into quarters, leaving the stem end together so the lemon ends up like a sort of opened flower. However one of my favorite websites, NW Edible, had a recipe that called for quartering them completely. I followed Erica's guide for these, and so far I'm really pleased.

Basically all you do is quarter a bunch of lemons and put them in a big bowl. As you put each lemon in, sprinkle it with two tablespoons of Kosher salt. When they're all in, toss 'em around.

Then stuff them into a jar (or jars).

Let them sit for an hour to get soft, then press them down into the jar so they form a tight pack and release some juice. Then juice another few lemons and add to the jar until the salted lemons are nearly covered with juice.

You'll let these sit on the counter top (a cool place, easy in winter when lemons are ripe) for a week, giving them a good shake every day. After that, you store 'em in the fridge for up to a year.

The week on the counter means you're basically fermenting these guys, so you might get a sort of whitish 'bloom' in the jar. Apparently this is harmless.

Every time I ferment something on the counter, I think of ancient times, and how people used to do this regularly as a part of their food preservation. It's a skill that's generally lost today, though I know that you can take classes in home fermentation everywhere in the Bay Area, so it's coming back in to fashion. I've put Sandor Katz's book "The Art of Fermentation" on my Christmas wish list, so I can learn even more. We've fermented pickles, peppers, and ginger, as well as milk, but we've yet to try cabbage or the hundreds of other fruits and veg that can be fermented.

Anyway, here's what the lemons look like in the morning light today. They'll get glossier as the week goes on.

It's raining lightly again today, which is gorgeous. I'm determined not to let grey skies depress me this year, because it means that we're getting much-needed moisture. I tend to get a little 'S.A.D.' every winter (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I find several ways to combat it: I try to appreciate what the season brings, try to find projects to distract me from early dark, try to get outside as much as possible, and walk a lot. Since Joe is injured, the walking isn't happening as much, and I just don't feel good about going out without him. But I might have to just put on my boots and go for a muddy hike and try not to think about him at home, longing for a romp in the open space.

One of the things the season brings is pretty mushrooms. I found several of these beauties while mucking about in the compost yesterday.

And I've already seen several stinkhorns in the vegetable beds. It's mushroom time again!