One of the easiest ways to use up a glut of lemons is to make- preserved lemons! Who’d thunk it!
Preserved lemons are used in a lot of North African and Indian cooking. The have an intense lemony flavour and though the flesh can be used in sauces etc it is really the peel you are after. So how to make them? Well you simply wash your lemons and quarter them. Layer the lemon quarters in a sterile jar with lots of salt (don’t use salt with iodine as it inhibits fermentation), pushing down to release the lemon juice. Fill the jar with lemons and salt, you can also add black peppercorns and bay leaves for extra flavour, making sure they are packed in tightly (without air bubbles like the large one you can see in my photo- eek!). If the lemons are not covered by their own salty juices you can add a little brine (salt water) to ensure they are covered. Screw on a lid and leave at room temperature to ferment. That’s it!
Leave for at least four weeks, the lemons will soften and the flavour will intensify over this time. When you’re ready to use them rinse the lemons, discard the flesh or reserve for a sauce or dressing, trim any white pith from the peel and slice finely. Delicious in so many recipes!
EDIT: If you are having trouble getting your lemons to stay under the juice/brine rustle up one of those little table-like plastic stands that are used to stop take-away pizza from sticking to the pizza box lid. Put the flat surface down on top of your lemons then screw on the lid. The lid will push on the little ‘legs’ and force the lemons under the liquid and keep them there! Simple but effective!
Of course you can’t deal with a citrus glut without making marmalade. It’s the perfect way to use up citrus fruit whilst also preserving them. I turned to ‘Pam the Jam’, author of the River Cottage Preserves handbook, for a couple of worthy recipes.
I decided to make a standard Orange Marmalade using Naval & Blood Oranges, and a Lemon & Honey Marmalade. I’d never seen a lemon marmalade before and I can imagine using it to top a cake as well as on your standard toast. Honey is expensive so I just used the most basic cheap honey I could find. I only needed one cup for the recipe so it wasn’t too indulgent. I made both marmalades using the whole fruit method, though I cheated a little and sliced the fruit using my food processor and then boiled it using my pressure cooker, so it was a much faster process than the recipe suggested.
I’ve been collecting jars lately and I really love these ball mason jars. They are just so pretty and practical! Can you see the difference in colour between the Orange Marmalade above and the Lemon & Honey Marmalade below?
Whenever I visit my parents I help them with their pruning. Ok, to be honest I wander around their garden and snip a few bay leaves here and a handful of rosemary there, nothing they would miss but great for our grocery budget. I also trim the herbs we grow in our garden and out on the verge to keep them bushy and productive. Of course I have to do something with all these harvested herbs and a great way to preserve them is by drying.
To dry your herbs they must be free of dirt so give them a good wash then hang up in a warm dry spot. Make sure they are out of direct sunlight to preserve their colour and once dry take them down and store in an airtight container. I hang mine from the kitchen lights, do whatever works for you.
My sister recently pruned her sage plant and dropped by with an armload of the cuttings. When I had finished drying them I compared their weight with that of a typical dry herb canister from the supermarket and estimated I had saved us more than twenty dollars by taking a few minutes to wash and truss up the excess sage with string. Bargain.