At this time of year I get an urge, as I’m sure many of you do, to fill jars and bottles with all manner of goodness and line my shelves for the coming months. I think it must be a throwback to the years when we were the type of animal that hibernated, or perhaps I’m just descended from squirrels and like keeping stores of things. My Mother likes to say ‘It’s like money in the bank‘ and I couldn’t agree more.
Anyway, I’m getting off point. It’s also very nearly Christmas and what could be a better present than a gleaming jar of home made pickles, or chutney, or in this case preserved lemons.
This is a cheekily borrowed and adapted recipe from David Lebowitz’ rather amazing website, Living the Sweet Life in Paris, if you haven’t already, definitely wander over and peruse his recipes.
So, I made four jars, with about ten lemons, but as the weeks go on I may need to top them up with some more lemon juice.
You will need some good quality sea salt - I used Malden, and any spices of your choice.
Jars of goodness.
Wash the lemons vigorously, try to get unwaxed lemons, organic are best, as the rinds are what’s important in this recipe.
Cut the little hard nobbly bits off each end and then slice them from their point, but not all the way through, and then again the other way, so you’ve cut an ‘X’ through each one but it still holds together.
Pack the lemons with the salt, at least a table spoon, possibly more, and push them into the jars – you can be quite rough. I have to say I could only get two into each one of mine but I was using smaller jars than normal and the lemons I chose were large. Then you can add the spices of your choice: I used Cinnamon bark, peppercorns and a bay leaf.
That’s it! The lemons will soften and as they do you can top them up with lemon juice until they’re covered. Voila! Your lemons will be ready in about a month. You can chop them up and put them with vegetables, or use then as a base for a fabulous roast chicken, using the juices to baste it. Or eat them as an accompaniment to a curry, similar to lime pickle. Experiment!
They certainly make a cheery, bright addition to our cupboard full of jars.
Flavoured Olive Oil
This is possibly the easiest Christmas present we have ever made. It takes two minutes and looks and tastes great.
A word of caution however, do not use garlic cloves- they may cause botulism as they are grown in the earth and the oil is the perfect breeding ground for this nasty bacteria.
Apart from that, you can use any fresh herbs, lemon rind, chillies, whatever you prefer.
I chose lemon and thyme, you’ll need two sprigs per bottle, and the rind of a whole lemon.
Perfect homemade accompaniment.
Heat the oil until it is hot, but not boiling and then pour it into the bottle. Push the sprigs of thyme and the lemon rind into the bottle and secure with a cork. Voila! The longer you leave it, the more pronounced the flavours will become. If you prefer you can heat the oil and pour it into a bowl with the lemon and thyme, and then refrigerate it until the flavour is the strength you want it, and then strain the flavoured oil into the bottle so it’s free from herbs.