Sunday, January 13, 2008

When Celestina delivers lemons....

Celestina, one of Madame's former students, is a girl from the "Valley" that fertile stretch of South Texas down near the Mexican border. She has provided us with some of the sweetest, juiciest lemons imaginable. So many that we were wondering what to do with them all. After all one can only drink so many gin-and-tonics!

At various times, I have wished I had some preserved lemons to go with some of the middle eastern dishes that we like to eat. Unfortunately when the middle eastern muse strikes there isn' time to make preserved lemons. They do, after all, take about 30 days to mature.

So, with the bounty from Celestina and a bit of forethought, preserved lemons are under way. They are simple to make - you just need salt, some common spices and time (yes time, not thyme).

8-10 lemons
1/4 cup of table salt (1/2 cup of kosher salt)
2 inches of cinnamon stick
a few coriander seeds (whole)
a few whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Wash the lemons thoroughly

Slice a little off the top and tail of each lemon - enough so it will stand on the chopping board either way up. Stand each lemon up, and make a vertical slice through the middle almost to the bottom. You definitely want to make sure that the halves are still attached. Turn the lemon the other way up and do the same from the other end - at right angles to the first cup. So now you have the 4 quarters still somehow attached, but with their innards exposed.

Sterilize a quart jar, dry it and put a table spoon of the salt in the bottom and a few of the coriander seeds and pepper corns together with a chunk of the cinnamon stick. Sprinkle salt on each cut surface of the lemons, and push the lemons into the jar, pressing down firmly. When the jar is about 1/2 full add the remaining spice bits. Make sure you fill the jar well, and if necessary add fresh (yes I mean fresh...) lemon juice to cover. There should be a small gap between the top surface of the juice and the rim of the jar. Cover the jar tightly and leave to rest in a warmish (i.e. not the refrigerator) place for at least a month. Turn the jar over every week or so to make sure the ingredients are well combined.

When you use them, make sure you rinse them pretty thoroughly. You will be eating the peel, so you can discard the juice/pulp, although I imagine you could reuse that juice for covering the next batch..

Thanks Celestina!!!!

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