A Cook's Bookshelf, Food, Savoury
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cured lemons

My pickling and preserving ambitions have now exceeded the limitations of my fridge.

There are jars of dilly pickled carrots. Homemade limoncello. Seville marmalade, of various sorts and peel stripes (grapefruit, lime, blood orange – oh my!). The old bars of my fridge shelves are sagging under the weight. And I can’t stop. There are too many things to make.

One of my favourites, which has been out of commission for a while, are the cured lemons from The Palomar Cookbook, gifted to me a few Christmases ago by my brother and his girlfriend.

The Palomar itself is a restaurant in London serving the food of modern Jerusalem, by way of North Africa, Spain and the Levant. And the book – a labour of love, with input, recipes, and techniques from different members of the team – is a collection of some of the restaurant’s great dishes. Some you might recognise, like labneh and fattoush, others you might not, but you’ll soon clamour to make, like the scallop carpaccio with “Thai-bouleh” (which swaps out lemon for lime and bulgur for cashews in the traditional tabbouleh salad).

The cured lemons, meanwhile, are the first recipe in the book – it’s a bold opening. And it’s quickly followed by a recipe for a spicy paste made with them, packed with chilli, paprika and cumin, which makes an argument for whipping up a batch of cured lemons using the original proportions (it calls for 10 lemons).

But for my purposes (not being a commercial kitchen, and having the aforementioned lack of space), I’ve adjusted the recipe to make a smaller amount, but it still makes one generous jarful – and a delicious one, to boot. I’ll include the original proportions at the end, if you want to make a bumper batch.

While the slices are wonderful in place of any preserved lemon requested by a recipe, I’m particularly partial to a few slices simply chopped up and eaten on their own. Tart and salty, they make a wonderful apéro snack, especially when accompanied by some earthy nuts and a few slices of salami. They cut through the wide taste of the fat, waking up your taste buds and giving you that toe-tapping taste sensation.

Of course, not everyone has my love of sharp, zingy things, but they’re still an invaluable addition to the fridge larder. The lemons themselves have the obvious uses, from pilafs to tagines, but the salty, lemony oil that the slices are preserved in make delicious salad dressings. It’s a particularly great addition to tzatziki, adding an extra dimension to the creamy, fresh, herb-packed dip.

You need unwaxed lemons for this as you’ll be eating the rind. But in a pinch, you can buy waxed ones and give them a good scrub under warm running water to get rid of the coating. But my advice would just be to wait until you can buy some lovely-looking unwaxed ones, if you can, and save yourself the extra work.

cured lemons
adapted from “The Palomar Cookbook”

4 unwaxed lemons
24g Maldon salt
80ml light olive oil
70ml extra-virgin olive oil

Sterilise a large glass jar. For tips on how to do this, read this article.

Cut the lemons into slices of about 5mm (or about the thickness of a pound coin).

Place a layer of lemon slices (or as best you can, depending on the width of the jar) in the jar, then sprinkle on some of the salt. Repeat until all the slices and all the salt is in the jar.

Using one measuring jug, measure both kinds of oil and pour them over.

Seal the jar, and put in the fridge. The slices will be ready to eat in three days, and will keep for up to a month in the fridge.

Notes:

  • The original calls for 10 unwaxed lemons, 60g salt, 200ml rapeseed oil and 175ml olive oil.
  • Keep these in the fridge to get the most bang for your buck, but if you can find a cool, dry spot (out of sunlight!), then they’ll last around a week.
  • The oil measurement is a guideline – in fact, so are the lemons. Much will depend on the size of jar you choose. So, slice up the lemons, layer them in, sprinkle the salt, pour over the oil, and you’ll probably be alright. But just make sure, whatever proportions you use, that the lemon slices stay covered in oil. Add a bit more if necessary.
  • To keep these delicious for as long as possible, remember to fish them out of the jar with a clean utensil (or a pickle fork – incidentally, mine’s an ornate silver one, a gift from my parents, which looks, fabulously and, I believe unintentionally, like someone giving the finger) so as not to contaminate the lemons and their oil.

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