Quick and Dirty: Preserved Lemons (and a good tip about avocado in salad)

I love cooking most days but it takes quite a bit of extra time and effort to measure the ingredients exactly and take pictures of every step to post a recipe. And let’s be real, that is not the way most people cook anyway. Much of the time it’s throwing in a pinch of this, a bit of that, and using up the tail ends of whatever is in your fridge. So many times I have wanted to share a good dish with you but because I haven’t measured the ingredients exactly and photographed every step I am hesitant to post it as a “recipe”. So I’m starting something new… Quick and Dirty (Q&D) where I will tell you briefly about a yummy thing I’ve made and I hope to inspire you to try something similar with what you have on hand. This can mean switching out vegetables, spices, herbs, grains, and even types of meat depending on what you feel like eating and what is in your cupboards.

Oh, and I have a totally random quick tip to share with you as well! I learned a new trick from Melissa Clark, food writer for the New York Times. She says when you’re making a salad with an avocado in it, salt the avocado when it’s on the cutting board before it goes in the salad or it never gets enough salt. I, of course, don’t cut an avocado on a cutting board (does anyone??) so I just salt the top half before I scoop out the pieces with a spoon. Voila! :)

So my Q&D today isn’t even really a Quick & Dirty. See?!?! I’m already veering off course because this is not a dish but something that will make many of your dishes better! I’m talking about preserved lemons. If you haven’t tried them, you’re in for a WHAM POW treat! It’s the peel of the preserved lemon that is gold and there are so many uses for these bright, salty, flavour bombs.  Simply run a knife along the inside of the peel and remove/discard the flesh. Dice up the peel and throw it in at the end of cooking to brighten soups and stews, mix into salads (potato salad!) and sprinkle over grains (couscous with feta!), top cooked vegetables (roasted broccoli with a pinch of red pepper flakes is especially good), scatter over hummus to give it a bright salty lift, and even run a sliver of peel around the edge of a cocktail glass and use it as garnish. You could process the entire pickled lemons into a paste and keep it in the fridge to mix with mayonnaise as a dip for fish. Add a bit of olive oil to that and you have an instant salad dressing. Once you get used to using preserved lemons you will be tossing them in everything!

I prefer to use Meyer lemons for this method because they have a thinner pith but regular lemons work just fine as well. Most recipes I’ve read say these lemons will last 6 months to a year in the fridge. I made a huge jar about 3 years ago and am still eating out of it but I am down to my last couple lemons. Not much bad can grow in that salty acidic environment so don’t be afraid.

10 Whole lemons (more or less)
3/4 cup kosher salt
1 TBS granulated sugar

Trim the end of the lemon where it hung from the tree. Split each lemon lengthwise into quarters almost all the way through to the bottom. Lemon quarters should still be connected at the base. Sprinkle the inside of each lemon with 1 tsp salt. Transfer to a large bowl or container. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the remaining salt and sprinkle over the lemons. Cover and let sit on your counter or in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day the lemons should have released a lot of liquid. Transfer the lemons to sterilized glass jars (one large or several smaller). If you are trying to fit them into a smaller jar feel free to cut them in half. Pack the lemons in tightly and divide the liquid among the jars. You can top off the liquid if you want with extra fresh lemon juice but don’t use that stuff in a bottle unless it’s absolutely pure, fresh squeezed lemon juice and NOTHING ELSE. The liquid is supposed to cover the lemons but mine don’t always, although I turn the jar upside down for a day or so every week so everything gets a chance to ferment. Seal and store in the fridge for at least a few weeks (I think they start getting good after a couple months) and up to a year (or 3 if you’re me).

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