You don’t need to be all scurvy to enjoy all the citrus delights that are in abundance at this time of year. I especially love grapefruit. It seems as though the more approachable, less tart, pink grapefruit is what stocks the store shelves these days. Personally, I wish it was easier to find the delicious white variety. Because I love SOUR. I love the acidity, and I love it when the back of my jowls salivate, making my cheeks cave in and – as unsexy as that may sound – I don’t care, I love it. Mother Pucker!
It seems pretty trendy these days to pickle things and, more specifically, to make preserved lemons. I always see them on shelves or sills at those joints that bearded dudes with tight pants frequent. But that doesn’t have anything to do with how delicious they are and how easy they are to make yourself.
You just need a bunch of organic lemons, a jar and some kosher salt. Cut the lemons into quarters without slicing the end all the way through so they stay intact. Generously salt them on the insides, stuff them into a mason jar on top of one another, and squish them down with a wooden spoon, forcing some of their juice out. Add more salt to the jar and then add more lemon juice, if you need to, until the preserved lemons in the jar are totally covered in salty juice. You can add spices like coriander, chillies or cinnamon, whatever you like. Or add nothing at all. Screw the lid on the jar and leave it in a cool dark place for 30 days to do its thing.
So now that you waited 30 days its time to enjoy them. Some people rinse the lemon pieces off before using them, as they can be salty (I don’t, but whatever floats your boat). I find the rind of the preserved lemon to be the best part. Use it in stews, dressings, on roasted chicken, seafood, in marinades, etc. Of course, preserved lemons are classically used in Morrocan cuisine, but be creative and experiment, use them any way you’d normally use lemon and lemon rind. Seriously, these little lemon gems are gonna elevate your dishes. Fun!
Ok. Here’s the secret weapon part of all this. Lets say you’re one of those people that think packing lemons into a jar seems like way too much work. And you want to elevate your dishes RIGHT NOW, not 30 days from now like some zombie apocalyptic movie. You’re probably also one of those people who thinks peeling eggs is tiresome and would order one of these stupid eggies. Hard boiled=hard work? Get over yourself. Anyways, I’m getting off topic and am angry just talking about it.
So I will share one of my secret weapons. They are kinda like preserved lemons and can pack some punch into a dish that is falling flat. I’m talking about South Asian style pickles. There are all different kinds – pickled green mangos, limes or mixed vegetables, to name a few - and they can be found at your local Indian deli or market in cans or jars. Some are crazy hot so I like to buy the mild green mango or lime ones. I finely dice them up and use them the same way I use preserved lemons, putting them into stews, curries, sauces, soups and tons of other things. It adds a Zip, Zang, POW!
So there you have it. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade or make pickles. Or at least buy some mixed pickles. Dealer’s choice. And what about you? what’s your kitchen secret weapon? Your culinary flavor light-sabre? Feel free to share by commenting below. I feel as though I am the only one doing all the talking here.