SAFI PRESERVED LEMONS
Yields 1 medium mason jar
1/2 cup salt, more if desired
For the Safi mixture
1 cinnamon stick
5 to 6 coriander seeds
3 to 4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, if necessary
If you wish to soften the peel, soak the lemons in lukewarm water for 3 days, changing the water daily. Scrub the lemons with a vegetable brush and dry them off.
Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, then reshape the fruit.
Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of the mason jar. Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt, and the optional spices between layers.
Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons. (If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice — not chemically produced lemon juice and not water). Leave some air space before sealing the jar.
Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. Allow to ripen for 30 days. Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year.
Although it’s possible to buy citrons confits at markets, making preserved lemons couldn’t be easier and they taste far better than anything you can buy. This preserved lemon recipe happened only from visiting my grandmother on a Sunday afternoon, to see her lemon tree was bearing luscious plump yellow fruit, and a lot of it! Last year I made a batch of lemon curd, which I will probably make again this week, because why not! When life gives you lemons, right? This year called for some preserved lemons, and thats when I stumbled upon the Safi technique and became very interested.
Preserved lemons, sold loose in the souks, are one of the indispensable ingredients of Moroccan cooking. Their unique pickled taste and special silken texture cannot be duplicated with fresh lemon or lime juice, despite what some food writers have said. In Morocco they are made with a mixture of fragrant-skinned doqq and tart boussera lemons, but I have had excellent luck with finding beautiful unspoiled lemons from my grans tree.
Moroccan Jews have a slightly different procedure for pickling, which involves the use of olive oil, but this recipe, which includes spices (in the manner of Safi), will produce a true Moroccan preserved-lemon taste. Happy Cooking!
When you are ready to use the lemons remove from the liquid and rinse. Remove them with clean utensils to avoid contaminating the inside of the jar with bacteria. This way, the remaining contents of the jar will not need to be refrigerated. Split in half and scrape out the pulp. Slice the lemon peels into thin strips or cut into small dices. You may wish to press the pulp through a sieve to obtain the tasty juice, which can be used for flavoring as well, and then discard the innards.
Safi Preserved Lemon Inspiration
Chop peel finely & combine with chilli and olive oil to make a marinade to baste fish or chicken.
Add the pulp to salad dressings.
Chop finely and add to salads, quinoa, couscous or steamed rice, stews and lentil dishes.
Bake with fish, lamb or chicken.
Prepare a classic martini and substitute the olive with a slice of preserved lemon.
Add to your favourite gin & tonic.
Finely dice preserved lemons and mix them with sautéed vegetables, such as green beans or fava beans.
Mash into butter with some fresh herbs, then smeared on top of grilled fish or a nice hunk of caramelized roasted winter squash.
Use finely-chopped little pieces to a batch of lemon ice cream.
Photos by Timothy Bowles
Styling & Editing by Megan Kate Swan
Find the printable version of the recipe here.
Source: Adapted from The Daring Gourmet