Sometimes, particularly on a rainy PNW day, I like to curl up with a cookbook and just browse the pages, imagining all the cooking I might do. One of my favorite cookbooks with which to while away the hours is The Art of Simple Food II by Alice Waters. I don’t recall that I intentionally set out to purchase this cookbook – I suspect it might have been a remnant of the cookbook book club days when I often forgot to respond to the email declining my monthly book selection and so ended up with a bigger than intended cookbook library. I’ve only ever made one recipe from Waters’s book – salt preserved kumquats – but that one recipe made me a lifelong aficionado of salt preserved citrus.
Since then, I’ve explored salt preserving regular lemons and have made more salt preserved kumquats, but by far, my favorite citrus to preserve are Meyer Lemons. The combination of salty and sweet and floral livens up so many dishes. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing how I use up my most recent jar of this beautifully simple, lovely condiment. I’ve read that these can last in the refrigerator for up to six months, but I’ve always used them up well before that.
The lemons take a month to cure. You’ll know they are ready when the remaining pulp in the lemons looks mushy and the rinds are soft. They are an easy preserve – they take just a few minutes to put together and then can go in the back of the refrigerator and be forgotten about until a month has gone by. I do occasionally give them a good shake to distribute the salt a bit, but I don’t think that’s really necessary. I just like to be assured they are coming along as well as be cheered by their sunny lemony appearance.
Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons
8 Meyer lemons, thoroughly washed
1 ½ cups kosher salt
Juice from the 8 Meyer lemons
2 bay leaves
6-8 whole black peppercorns
In a pint jar, pour a thin layer of salt – it should just cover the bottom of the jar.
Cut each of the Meyer lemons in half and juice them. Fill each half of the lemon with salt. In a pint jar, layer each lemon half filled with salt and press down each time. After you’ve added three or four lemon halves, place the bay leaves and peppercorns. Continue to layer the remaining salt-filled lemon halves, pressing firmly on each to fit them in the jar. When you’ve gotten as many of the halves in as will fit with about an inch left at the top of the jar, pour in the lemon juice. You may have more juice than you need, so reserve what’s left for other recipes. Run a chopstick or knife around the inside of the jar to release air bubbles and ensure the lemon juice is covering as much of the salt-filled lemons as possible. Pour an additional layer of salt over the lemons at the top of the jar, covering the lemons as much as possible. Put a tight fitting lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator. The lemons will take a month to cure.
When they are ready, pull out each lemon for use, remove the remaining pulp and rinse thoroughly. Only the rind is used.