Why canned lemons belong in your pantry
It’s hard to think of a more useful ingredient than a preserved lemon. It can be the finishing touch to all kinds of soups and stews, or that magic ingredient in salad dressing or pasta. Adding candied lemons to anything takes its flavor to the next level.
The sharp tangy taste of lemon is one of the six flavor keys we cannot live without. These tastes are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. When all six tastes are balanced and present in food, one experiences deep satisfaction.
With candied lemons, the sour taste is elevated into a trinity of complexity that begins with acid and swirls from there. It’s still sour, but it’s also so much more.
To make candied lemons, you cut the top fruit into wedges, but leave the base intact so the lemon opens up like a four-pointed star. Then fill the lemon with good quality salt and seal it.
The salted lemons are then pushed into a glass jar, crushing them a little to release some of their juice. (The salt helps extract the juice.)
Once tightly packed in the jar, additional lemon juice is added to top it off. Finally, cover it loosely, leave it on the counter and wait for about a month until the candied lemons are finished.
To preserve lemons is to ferment them. The lactic acids ferment the fruit, making the skin and the whole thing perfectly appetizing and pleasantly heady.
You now have a sour flavor tempered by salt, and complicated by the savory “umami” quality of fermentation.
Your preserved lemon is now an available ingredient for anything you would normally use fresh lemon for, except it’s a better ingredient.
There is also no need to worry about lemons spoiling. Stored lemons will survive in the refrigerator for a year or more.
Why should I bother fermenting lemons?
Oh fermentation! Why do it? Why care? Why include it in our diet? Why bother?
I went to Sandor Ellix Katz for the answer. Katz is a fermentation expert and author of the encyclopedic book “The Art of Fermentation”.
For Katz, fermentation is about taking back the power of the industrialized processing machine that “cooks” most of the foods we eat in a standard American diet.
“Most food and drink fermentation processes are ancient rituals that humans have performed since before the dawn of recorded history, but we have largely relegated them to factory production,” he writes.
“Fermentation has virtually disappeared from our homes and communities. Techniques developed by disparate human cultures over millennia, through observation of natural phenomena and manipulation of conditions through trial and error, have become obscure and are in danger of being lost.
Katz encourages readers to experiment with fermentation by offering principles and examples of different fermentation techniques, rather than explicit recipes.
It’s amazing to read his book and read anecdote after anecdote about someone who has tried to ferment X in such and such a way, and also to realize how fermented foods exist in traditional cultures around the world, even today.
Yet we hardly know many of these traditional recipes. They are really in danger of getting lost. It is therefore inspiring to think of all the possibilities that we could return to the plate if we have the will.
By following the principles of fermentation, it is easy to imagine using all the surplus vegetables or fruits grown in our regions. You don’t need to use an imported ingredient at all. And fermented lemons are some of the easiest to make.
Canned lemons are healthy!
There are also many health reasons why it makes sense to add fermented foods to the diet.
I admit I’m a believer that nature provides for us so if it’s something we’ve consumed for thousands of years due to the need to preserve food then why wouldn’t it still be good for we ?
Think about it! Scientists have only recently discovered the vast microbial life that exists in the human body, known as the human microbiome.
I wrote about this for The Epoch Times from the perspective of new opportunities for food manufacturers to “sell” us food for our microbiome.
The fact is that the non-human cells we harbor within us are ten times more numerous than human cells. So feeding these cells things they like, including fermented lemons, is not a far-fetched concept at all.
You can read more about it in my article, “Why the 2,000-year-old tradition of Kimchi is here to stay.” Kimchi is another easy fermented food made from vegetables like cabbage and radish.
A long and short history of canned lemons
Buttered Veg is about traditional food, and it doesn’t get much more traditional than something like this.
According to Mary Ellen Snodgrass, author of The Encyclopedia of Kitchen History, canned lemons have been enjoyed at least since the 12th century, when this extraordinary condiment originated in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. quoted in Serious Eats.
Candied lemons are most often associated with Moroccan cuisine as tagine ingredienta savory stew made with meat, vegetables, spices, nuts and dried fruits, and cooked in an earthenware pot.
Food writer and author Paula Wolfert is credited with popularizing the recipe for candied lemons in America with her 1987 cookbook, “Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco.”
It’s been a short story in America, but it means there’s still a lot to learn and experience.
How to cook with candied lemons
The recipe for candied lemons is basically the same everywhere you look.
Some cooks embellish the basic recipe with spices, such as cinnamon sticks, cloves, spice berries, red chili peppers, black peppercorns, and coriander seeds. Feel free to experiment with different spices if the idea of these flavors appeals to you.
I prefer to keep it simple, using only lemons, good quality salt and fresh lemon juice. This way you make maximum use of the lemons as an ingredient in your pantry.
This is my second batch of candied lemons. The first batch sold out in pasta cream sauces, dressings, cold pasta salads, chutneys and salsas.
As an ingredient, candied lemons are savory, sweet, sour, and salty, so anywhere you feel a complex flavor would enhance the taste, you can try it.
One thing I would suggest as an improvement to the basic recipe is to chop the lemons after the jam is ready, so you can easily scoop out a spoonful to add to your meal, rather than chopping it every time because it is kind of sloppy and messy. You can also remove all seeds at this stage.
All of the candied lemon is edible, including the zest. Between the skin and the flesh, the taste is different. You can therefore separate the two, or use only one or the other parts of the lemon in a dish.
Another consideration is salt. Some people rinse off the salt before using the lemon. You can also do this, or you can allow for extra salt in your recipe. Taste the candied lemon and find out how salty it is. Then you’ll have a better idea of exactly what he’s adding to the recipe.
All citrus fruits work for this method of preserving with salt. I photographed lemons and limes for you that I made today. The chopped lemon is actually preserved Meyer lemons that I made a month ago, and it’s now ready. Meyer lemons are sweeter and are generally only available in the United States between November and April.
Are you ready?
Now you. Are you ready to try preserving lemons?
It is foolproof and easy to make fermented lemons. This recipe gives a wonderful introduction to fermentation, and it comes with a big payoff, because fermented lemons are endlessly useful as a pantry ingredient.
How about including salted lemon wedges on raw vegetables, or as a garnish for fish or chicken if you eat meat? I think you will find that the possibilities are indeed endless.
Candied lemons recipe
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Total duration: 20 minutes
Servings: 1 jar
Author: Andrea from Buttered Veg
Fermented lemons are truly foolproof and easy to prepare. This recipe is a wonderful introduction to fermentation, and it comes with a big payoff, because fermented lemons are endlessly useful as a pantry ingredient.
6 lemons (Use enough lemons to fill your desired jar size. 4-6 lemons should fill a quart jar nicely.)
Himalayan pink saltabout 2 teaspoons per lemon
Extra lemons for lemon juice
A glass jar of the appropriate size to hold your lemons
Wash the lemons well and dry them with a clean towel. Cut the end pieces off the lemons where they were attached to the stem.
Begin to cut the lemons in half lengthwise, but do not cut completely. Leave half an inch uncut at the bottom to keep the lemon intact.
Make a second cut lengthwise so the lemon opens up into wedges.
Now comes the fun part! Open your first lemon with your fingers. (It will look like a four pointed star). Sprinkle generously with good quality sea salt, about 2 teaspoons per lemon. Catch the pieces of salt that fall into a bowl.
After salting all the lemons, put the extra salt from your bowl in the bottom of your jar and fill the jar with the salted lemons. If you squeezed the lemons to put them in the jar, there will already be juice. Add enough additional lemon juice to completely submerge the lemons.
Lightly cover the lemons with the lid and place them in a cool place for about 2 weeks to a month. Check the lemons regularly and push the lemons down if necessary to keep them submerged. When the crusts are tender and you like the taste, store the jar in the refrigerator. Canned lemons will keep for months, even up to a year or more. Lemons will, however, become softer over time as lactic acid continues to break down plant cell walls, but at a slower rate in the refrigerator.
Since you will be eating the skin, organic lemons are recommended.
Calories: 2kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin C: 3.2mg
This article was originally published on butteredveg.com
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