Lemon & Salt

My new favorite condiment for nearly everything:  preserved lemon.  Lemon & salt, salt & lemon, that’s it, & who could ask for more?  And happily, it’s very easy to make* – gotta use your hands though!

The veneration of salt peppers human history, & rightly so.  Once people had that saline taste, they would do almost anything to keep having it.  The search for salt fueled wars & varied ventures of conquest.  Salt might have to be another post though, because this one is really about lemons.

Lemons are not valentines, which are oh-so-yesterday.  But unlike valentines, can you imagine life without lemons?  Can you imagine life without that lovely blossomy aroma…that startling brilliant color in the garden (even if you don’t usually love yellow)…that perfect acidic addition to your slightly-too-bland soup?  I’ve often thought that I could live happily with just lemons, salt & olives…accompanied by a bit of bread & fish & maybe a little wine too.  I sometimes imagine that this may have been how humans lived for generations as they slowly migrated along coastal waters east out of Africa & then later, into the Mediterranean region.  Well, I guess technically they didn’t have bread yet, or even lemons or olives, but there’s no doubt they ate seafood & discovered the preserving properties of salt along the way.  Cultivation of wild grain & citrus & fermented grapes & olives assuredly followed close on the heels of the advent of agriculture around 10,000 years ago.

I’ve wondered why lemons have a bad rap, as in (eye rolling): ‘if life hands you a lemon, make lemonade!’  In our language, lemons always have something wrong with them.  I think it must have something to do with expectations…we don’t expect that a fruit so tantalizingly lovely will result in such a visceral response.  But you (well most of us anyhow) can’t just eat this tart & sour fruit raw…the lemon lesson is that it’s gotta work with other stuff.  Team up.  Collaborate.  What doesn’t necessarily work all that well on its own can be amazingly effective in a group. & healthy too.

Well, ain’t that just like life.  We’re all, excuse the banality, handed a few lemons, & it’s up to us to make a savory condiment out of them, to enhance the flavor of whatever else we’ve got on hand.  Not sugary lemonade – this blog isn’t (too often) about sweetness.  For me, the preserved lemon lesson is about accepting that otherwise-discarded fruit & creating something with it that’s deeply satisfying & yes, salty.

Tuna sandwiches, bean soup, marinades, stews, stir fry, salad dressing.  If you don’t wanna make it yourself, please ask for a jar of my homemade version…I’m happy to share.  Or better yet, bring over your bag of unwanted lemons & we can pack in the salt together.

______________
* There are many recipes out there for preserved lemon, but here’s one tip I haven’t seen in them: juice about 1/3 of your lemons first so that you’re sure to have enough juice to fill up the jars after stuffing in the salt-filled ones.  If you have juice left over, refrigerate it to use to top up the jars in the few days, or freeze it in ice-trays.

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9 Responses to Lemon & Salt

  1. Elizabeth says:

    So how much salt per lemon? Do you slice them before jarring?

  2. Donna Maurillo says:

    Elizabeth, lots of salt. Lots and lots of salt. You pour a layer into a jar, then add a quartered lemon (top-to-bottom, leaving the bottom still attached), pour more salt to cover it, add another lemon, more salt, more lemons, etc. Stick a chopstick or a knife down the sides of the jar so the lemons are away from the side and completely covered in salt. Then pour a half-cup of lemon juice over the salt, cover (best to use a jar with a plastic cover because of the acid and saline), and set in a dark place for 4-6 weeks. Then pull the lemons out and remove the pulp. Rinse the skins, pat dry, and store in plastic bags in the freezer. They won’t ever really freeze because of the salt, but it’s a great place to store them.

    I have been making these for a couple of years, and I use them chopped up in salads, soups, cream cheese, sour cream dips, chicken dishes, mixed with good olives, etc etc.

    Funny story. I made a batch of preserved lemons and left a baggie of them at my neighbor’s front door. They weren’t at home, so I just tied it to the door handle. A few days later, I asked if they enjoyed the lemons. With an embarrassed laugh, they said they threw them out because they thought one of their kids’ friends had left garbage tied to the door.

  3. Donna Maurillo says:

    The link to Linda’s recipe is different from the one I learned from Chez Pim at Love Apple Farm. But I’m sure it works just fine.

    • liveoaklinda says:

      thanks for the comments gals. i couldn’t find the the recipe i actually use but will keep looking! i store them in the dark as donna suggests for about a month, or longer. also I quarter the lemons via one slice one way, then another slice perpendicular to the first one from the opposite end. i pack the lemons with as much kosher salt as i can, then pack them into a jar & fill up the jar w juice. many ways to get the same wonderful results!

  4. Jean Brocklebank says:

    Lemon yes!!! Love it fresh on just about everything. Everyone is Santa Cruz can have a lemon tree in their yard.

    Take care with the salt, however. From http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/how-much-sodium-should-you-consume-per-day.html#b we read:

    ‘The American Heart Association recommends limiting your sodium intake to less than 2,000 milligrams per day. And this may be easier said than done, due to the amount of sodium found in processed and canned foods. Frozen foods can even contain high amounts of sodium in an effort to keep them fresh longer. In addition, many sauces contain high amounts of sodium–sometimes more than fifty percent of your daily value per serving.

    “Ways to limit your sodium intake include eliminating the table salt when possible, cutting out bullion cubes and making your own vegetable or chicken broth. You can also cut back on soy sauce and other salty sauces, and replace seasoned salts with salt free seasoning options found in any grocery store. You should also check the labels before purchasing canned items to make sure they do not contain added salt. Look for organic, all-natural and salt-free options when buying vegetables and tomato sauces that are packaged.”

    Too much salt means high blood pressure, a bad health choice! Since I cut back on the amount of salt I consume daily, I have a renewed sense of health. At 68 next month, I feel better than before eschewing so much salt. But lemons, oh my, gimme lemons!

    Thanks, as always for an interesting essay, Linda. Very much appreciated.

  5. Tammy says:

    I just went to a lunch time restaurant that had a preserved lemon and arugula pizza. It was amazing.

  6. Katie E-M says:

    Seriously? I can bring lemons and you’ll teach me how to do this? I’d love that!

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