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I’ve posted this recipe as an accompaniment to my Moroccan Chicken With Preserved Lemons and Couscous which uses Preserved Lemons. I usually buy preserved lemons at a delicatessen, but following a query during the 2005 Zaar World Tour, I decided to post this recipe for preparing them. It is from a Murdoch books’ publication: ‘Mediterranean kitchen’, and I am posting it as a recipe for any regional recipe which calls for the use of preserved lemons. In particular, preserved lemons are a specialty of Morocco. “They are traditionally served with dishes such a grilled (broiled) meats or used to flavour couscous, tagines, stuffings and casseroles They can lend an intense citrus tang to a surprising variety of savoury dishes, such as prawn (shrimp) skewers, risotto, pasta and vinaigrettes. Only the rind is used in cooking. Discard the flesh and bitter pith, rinse and finely slice or chop the rind before adding it to the dish. Preserved lemons can be stored for up to six months in a cool, dark place.” This is a recipe where to specify the preparation time is somewhat difficult. I have simply listed the initial preparation time! After this preparation, the preserved lemons won't actually be ready for use for about 6 weeks! So if you need them immediately, buy them at a delicatessen. But since they are SO easy to make, you may well want to make some for future use!
- Scrub 10 lemons under warm running water with a soft bristle brush to remove the wax coating, cut into quarters, leaving the base attached at the stem end.
- Open each lemon, remove any visible pips and pack 1 tablespoon of rock salt against the cut edges of each lemon. Push the lemons back into shape and pack them into a 2 litre (8 cup) sterilized jar with a clip or screw-top lid. Depending on the size of the lemons, you may not have room for them all. Pack them firmly into the jar.
- Add the black peppercorns, bayleaf and extra rock salt to the jar, and fill the jar to the top with lemon juice. Seal and shake to combine all the ingredients, and leave in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks, inverting the jar once a week. In warm weather, store the preserved lemons in the refrigerator. The liquid will be cloudy initially, but it will clear after the fourth week.
- To test if the lemons are preserved, cut through the centre of one of the lemon quarters. If the pith is still white, the lemons are not ready. Reseal and leave for a week before testing again. The lemons should be soft-skinned and the pith should be the same colour as the skin.
- Once the lemons are preserved, cover he brine with a layer of olive oil. Replace the olive oil each time you remove some of the lemon pieces.