One of the first things that drew me to the house we have lived in for the past couple of years were the two lemon trees growing in the back yard. This is not entirely unusual for Sydney, yet to find a sunny back yard that had TWO established lemon trees was a bonus. It not only appealed to my culinary side, but also helped me feel a tiny step closer to my long-term dream of living on a property where we will one day grow, pick, and eat our own food (I did say long-term right?)…
As much as the flavour of lemons are reminiscent of summer, my trees bare their fruit in winter. This means each year I have an abundance of fruit to use, and I inevitably end up preserving more than a handful of jars of lemons to extend their shelf life.
Lemons are the citrus of choice for most cooks; I certainly would be at a loss without them in my kitchen. And although I love to preserve them I use them in all manner of cooking.
When I use their pungent zest in cakes, or dressings,or marinades, I delight in the fact that their skin, let alone juice, has so much flavour to offer. Having home-grown lemons means no wax ( it drives me crazy that the shop-bought lemons are coated in a thin layer of wax, why do they have to do this!). Wax-free lemons should be available to all. It’s unadulterated zest, the best of its kind.
The juice of lemons can be a cooks best friend in the kitchen, and as a rule of thumb, keeping one or two in the fruit bowl will enhance all manner of dishes. Again, the juice is excellent in marinades, especially for chicken. Green tahini dressing is lifted to new heights, and even just a small squeeze of the pale yellow liquid will enhance soups, stews, or any slow cooked meats.
Preserving lemons is very simple. The preparation is next to nothing: it’s the preserving that takes time; I leave mine at least six weeks and up to several months. The salt and juice slowly break down and soften the flesh whilst also mellowing the flavour, and this process just can’t be hurried.
As with all of the above ways of using fresh lemons, preserved lemons can be applied in much the same manner.
I usually use a few 750ml parfait jars with working seals on them, but I also utilise large glass jars that I’ve washed and stored exactly for this reason.
Makes 3-4 jars
15 large juicy lemons (wax free if you can)
3/4 cup cooking salt
12 cardamon pods
3 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp whole black pepper corns
First you need to sterilise the jars. Pre heat oven to 120C. Remove the rubber seal, wash the jars in warm soapy water, rinse, place on a tray and place in the oven for about 25 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them there till you are ready to fill them.
Wash lemons. Take 10-12 of the lemons and cut in half. Slice through each half leaving 4cm of the top of the lemon un-cut. Squeeze the majority of the juice from each lemon and set the juice aside in a jug.
Juice the remaining 3-5 lemons, and add this to the reserved lemon juice. You should by this stage have about 3 cups of lemon juice.
Sprinkle the salt all over the cut lemons, rubbing it into the flesh. Take the sterilised jars from the oven and stuff each jar with lemons, press them in firmly to fill the jars. Divide the cardamon pods, coriander seeds and peppercorns between the jars. Then divide the lemon juice between the jars pouring it over the lemons. Top up each jar with boiling water so the lemons are completely covered.
Seal the lids and gently shake the jar several times to combine. Place lemons on a shelf in the pantry to preserve for about 6 weeks, or longer. Once you open a jar refrigerate the contents for up to 2 months.