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.