Over the last few years I've been getting to know the foraging landscape around my county. It's taken a bit of time, but I have acquired an ever expanding database of free food. Wild food makes me appreciate plants and where I am. At times I feel overwhelmed with improving soil, fending off pests, providing water, keeping an eye on fungal and bacterial problems, and mostly orchestrating this whole ecosystem. So enjoying the fruits of labors not my own feels great!
Foraged lemons make me especially excited because I've found them growing across the street in an overgrown lot. How they thrive concealed by a wall of leggy, invasive, Brazilian pepper is beyond me. For most of the winter a quick trek across the street has provided me with enough lemons to share. Right now is a special intersection between the seasons for lemons. Blossoms and ripe fruit live concurrently on the trees for a short while. Citrus fruits love winter and with it winding down I foraged one last haul of lemons to put up for the hot seasons ahead. To make good use of life's abundances, I decided to try salted lemons, here goes.
Preserved lemons can be substituted for fresh in most recipes. They are mellowed by a long soak in a salty brine, removing the bitterness and rendering a softened, tasty peel. After the fermentation process there's not much pulp leaving the rind to carry the bright flavors. Once preserved and softened rinse them off, sometimes a whitish accretion occurs. Add them to dressings and marinades, diced over fish, minced in a hollandaise type sauce, stir-fried with veggies, tossed in a salad, added into a fruit salsas, simmered in Indian curries, added to dried bean and rice dishes, shaken as a salted lemon vodka collins. Anyone for a cocktail party in three weeks time?
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey
Salted Lemons, Moroccan Style
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup salt, plus some for sprinkling
2 pounds lemons (about 3-5 depending on size)
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
a few whole cloves
a couple coriander seeds
a bay leaf
Make a brine by dissolving the water and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Clean and dry the lemons. If you grow or find lemons in the woods a quick rinse is fine, but if the lemons are store- bought they may be waxed and need a good scrub.
Next cut the top and bottom off. Then slice lengthwise into quarters but leave them attached at the bottom.
Add the spices to your jar.
After the skin has softened, your lemons are ready to be stored indefinitely. I refrigerate at this point because my house is hot and humid for half the year. I imagine they don't need to be refrigerated if you live somewhere cool or have a climate control situation.