JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Preserved lemons

I've got a glut of lemons, so - at long last - I'm going to preserve a jar or two. And now I need a little advice from those of you who have done this. It comes from too much reading and not enough doing: does it really matter if you top up the jar with water as well as lemon juice? Or should it be only lemon juice? Paula Wolfert is stern: no water, just the juice of lemons you have squeezed yourself. But Pam Corbin, the author of the River Cottage handbook on Preserves, says you can top up with a little water.

I'll give both the methods (principally so that I can find them easily when we get back from a lunch party) ... but I'd really like some advice from anyone who's done this.

Paula Wolfert's preserved lemons

5 lemons
70g (or more) salt
freshly squeezed lemon juice if necessary

+ optional Safi mixture:

1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
5-6 coriander seeds
3-4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Quarter the lemons from the top to within a centimetre of the bottom; sprinkle salt on the exposed surfaces; reshape fruit.

Put one tablespoon of salt in the bottom of a Le Parfait jar. Pack in the lemons, squashing them down, adding more salt, and the spices if you're using them. Press the lemons to release juice, and add more if necessary until the fruit is covered. Seal.

Keep in a warm place for 30 days, shaking daily.

Pam Corbin's preserved lemons

for two 450g jars

1kg small lemons
150g sea salt
1 tsp pink or black peppercorns
3-4 bay leaves
1 tsp coriander seeds (optional)

Set aside 3-4 lemons for juice.

Partially quarter the others by slicing lengthwise but keeping them intact at the bottom. Rub a teaspoon of salt into the cut surfaces of each lemon. Pack into the jars, sprinkling with salt and spices. Cover the lemons with juice. Top up the jars with a little water if necessary. Seal. Leave for four weeks.

What would you do?


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I've never added any spices to them just salt a lemon juice.
The recipe I've used only leaves them out 3 or 4 days and then puts them in the fridge for 30 days ( I shook every day or so for the month).
I think you might be able to add a little water though all the recipes I've seen say no. If you add water I think you run the risk of watering the taste down - and that seems very contrary.
Even if you know your lemons, I suggest washing and plenty of rinse water to remove as much bacteria and yeast as possible. Lemon juice will have better bacterio-static action if there are fewer organisms to keep at bay.
I'd stick to 100% juice.

Joanna said...

Tanna thank you so much for this very good and sensible advice. I don't like the idea of watering this down - and also, as you say, the juice is part of the preservation mechanism, so that might be weaker too. Also P Wolfert says that you can keep on reusing the salt/juice - she says she keeps a jar of it for tossing lemon peels she's used for other purposes, which seems like a good and thrifty idea

Thanks for your advice

Wendy said...

Oh, let me know how it goes. My one attempt left me with six mouldy lemons. Keep meaning to try again...

Anonymous said...

I just add lemon juice, I would worry that the water would make them mould (but I wouldn't want to take on Pam the Jam, whose other recipes I have loved ). We also preserve our lemons through to the end of summer (harvested in winter) simply by placing them one at a time in plastic bags and tying above each one, tightly, with string. Looks like a lumpy sausage or tie dye. As emergency standby I freeze freshly squeezed juice in ice cube trays.

Anonymous said...

You could try both methods (halve the quantities if you don't have enough lemons). Label the jars with the method used and see which method works best - or if they produce different results at all.

Sam said...

I've done this before and used juice from a bottle to top them up.

I think it's the salt that does the preserving though so I guess water would work although it might affect the flavour.

Anonymous said...

Preserved lemons are a food of the Mediterranean. Paula Wolfert is an expert on that. I'd follow Paula's advice.

Josefina said...

the salt keeps unwanted bacteria out and the acidity of the lemon makes it all ferment along with naturally occurring yeasts on the skin of the fruit.
i have tried once and ended up with mold on the top. i should have squeezed another lemon to top off since one lemon was peeking out. i was being lazy.

Pooky said...

try some of these fruits from my blog , some of them aren't well known, but they have lots of health benefits!

Anonymous said...

Hello Joanna. Given the amount of salt and the acidity of the lemons, there's very little spoilage danger I can think of in adding a small amount of water. I've never needed to (and recipes I've seen often just top up with juice from more lemons if necessary).

Joanna said...

Duncan thanks for this - I came to that conclusion myself ... and in any case, they're kept in the fridge, so that's another safeguard


Wendy said...

Hi! How did your lemons turn out? I am trying to make the most of my lemon harvest and plan on trying to preserve some lemons and came across your post. Do you have any additional tips? Wendy

Joanna said...

Fine - but I'm a beginner here, Wendy - Tanna at My Kitchen in Half Cups, (see the top comment) might be a better person to ask for tips on this. And I agree with her about using 100 percent juice - which is easy if you have your own harvest. Good luck