This post is brought to you by the Food In Jars Mastery Challenge, February edition: Dry Salt Preserves ☀︎☀︎ ♦︎ ♦︎
I preserved some lemons last week. I slit their little bellies open, stuffed them with kosher salt, and mashed as many as I could into the 3rd and 4rth biggest jars I own, without bothering to sterilize the jars. That part was very satisfying. Hurray for the antibiotic properties of salt and for scientifically justified shortcuts!
Actually everything about this process is satisfying. Going to the market to assess the health and beauty of each fruit, getting gigantic bags worth and coming home to find I’d bought the exact right amount. Cutting them all surgically. Totally guessing on the amounts of salt. Feeling that connection to history that preserving food tends to make obvious. The smell of huge jars of salt-crushed lemon and lime vesicles all rubbing up together.
The fermentation has only just barely begun and I’m very fond of my yellow and green pets. They need to be shaken once or twice a day, but I usually just do it to say hi. I asked the Ninja to babysit the jars this weekend while I was away, which he didn’t do because babysitting jars is kind of a weird chore, so I had to pleasure of observing the liquid settle even further into clarity and salty mucilaginous striations before shake-shake-shaking it back up.
Every few days I’ll crack the salt-crusted tops to huff the fruits and it has a deeper character every time. I’ve never used these things a ton before and I’m excited to experiment with all possible applications. Just a few more weeks to show time, and then it’s oh but maybe the limes with tuna, and we have to add them to all relishes ever and can we make a dessert out of this somehow, like preserved lemon mincemeat? How about PIZZA? Just eat them like olives? Yeah. And I’m already wondering how salted radish projects (or unripe guava? Chili herb paste?) would go down. Probably well.
Salted Preserved Lemons (or Limes, or any Citrus)
Definitely more of a technique than a recipe. There are countless guides to it out there and mine will just be the way I did it, a simple approach with just lemons, salt and lemon juice.
- Lemons, enough to fill a large jar
- Salt, kosher
- Lemon juice, freshly squeezed, enough to top off the jar
Wash the fruits in hot water, scrubbing the waxy layer off and let dry. Wash your jar in hot soapy water and dry.
Cut the tip and tail ends off the lemons, then into quarters by cutting almost to the cutting board, but not quite all the way (the idea is to keep the segments attached, like a little flower.)
Pour a few tablespoons of salt in the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle the interior and sides of each lemon with a tablespoon or so of salt, and put them into the jar, pressing down gently to compress them into the space. Add more salt to each layer of lemons as you fill, finishing the top with more salt.
Top the jar with enough fresh lemon juice to fill, then cap tightly with a non-metallic lid (if possible, to avoid corrosion). Give it a good shake, and put it in a dark cool place to ferment for about a month. Shake the jar once a day to redistribute the salt.
Updates on the results forthcoming, as well as future Food In Jars challenges.