Fermented Preserved Lemons: delicious in dressings; refreshing in drinks. Tart, salty, bitter, tangy, matured in lemon juice and sea salt, Preserved Lemons are a great larder item for the lacto-fermenting cook. I made a batch several months ago, and they’ve really come into their own. I’ve been playing with them a bit, and getting obsessed with their bold brightness– or is it a bright boldness?–how they refuse to be denied presence, they refuse not to shine. Preserved Lemons are so easy to make, and you’ll find detailed links all over the internet, if not in many Middle Eastern/ North African cookbooks already on your shelf. My method is this:
- Per lemon, 1/4 teaspon seasalt
- An extra lemon for the juice.
- Choose are jar that is appropriately sized to the number of fruit you wish to pickle. Cut your ORGANIC (ie without waxes or pesticides, since the rind is so important here) lemons lengthwise nearly to the bottom, and then again lengthwise-crosswise, so you have four parts still hanging together. Slather the salt inside and out. Pack down, and do the next lemon until you’ve done all your lemons. Smoosh down in the jar. Cover with lemon juice.
- You can add spices (say, cumin and coriander seeds). My friend Maia did some with chilli powder, and it was an unbelievably good condiment for tomato soup. But I enjoy keeping my lemon plain for the sake of versatility.
- I reckon keeping the seeds in helps over time to thicken the brine (via their pectin) but you can remove them or not as feels easy (or not).
- Keep in a cool place for several weeks. Or even months. I found mine in the back of the fridge and it’s been 3 months. They are very tart in the best fresh and bright way.
Inspired by the idea to puree a little kimchi in a salad dressing, I began to whizz a little preserved lemon in dressings. WOW. You could decide to be subtle and just use a piece of a piece, or you could go mad and really use quite a large piece. Chacun a son gout.
I made two versions, experimenting.
The very tart version: 1 preserved lemons, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup my apple scrap vinegar. Less tart, 1/4 to 1/2 a preserved lemon, or an even smaller portion. A little garlic, shallots, spices, herbs… all would be appropriate as befits your creativity with vinaigrettes. In this case, I kept it very plain and it became a very bright dipping sauce for asparagus, especially abundant and available this year.
Add a little tahini, you could think of this dressing as probiotic, vegan mayonnaise. And if you are not vegan, add a little to mayonaisse. Play with it. Thin with water or juice or whatever. “This is your practice.”
I think this would be an amazing dressing on a Nicoise style salad with tuna, olives and potatoes and green beans… And a dip for chips, or Fish and Chips (“fush and chups,” as my daughter says). I’m thinking artichokes, steamed cauliflower, roasted beetroot, and grain or bean salads (like this one). Preserved Lemon in everything! And why not?
And then… and then… on the Wonderland that is Garden Betty’s website, I chanced upon her mention of Salty Lemonade, a Vietnamese libation of refreshment in which preserved lemon is muddled with sugar to flavour soda water. (She also has a great tutorial on preserving the original lemons on that site if you felt disappointed I didn’t really give a proper one.) (And more on Garden Betty soon.) It was delicious! And so was Preserved Lemon muddled with a little Elderflower Cordial to give the beverage that heady perfume of springtime. Wonderful. A fantastic drink. Imagine drinking it really cold under a hot sun. Garden Betty says Pickled Lemon in a cup of hot water is great healing for flu too. And now I never want to be without Preserved Lemons. DIY Sunshine in a world where nothing is guaranteed.