Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spicy Cardamom Preserved Lemons

I am a sucker for cardamom. I know that's what tempted me to try a preserved lemon recipe again.

What are preserved lemons? They're just lemons quartered and packed with salt and a mix of spices, commonly used in Moroccan and Indian cuisines. The pickling softens the skin, which you slice up and add to tagines or bean dishes, after scooping out and discarding the fruit. 

I was really excited about preserved lemons a few years ago - they're easy, beautiful and seemed like such a great way to use the lemon bonanza that comes my way this time of year. I made way too many. The problem was using them.  

I tried to adapt my cooking to incorporate them, but they're such a strong taste that I found I had to structure a whole meal around them, which got a little old. Beautiful jars of preserved lemons languished on my shelf for months, years. I bet there's still some up there.

But this week the lemon tree I share with six other families is going off. There's probably 30 ripe lemons up there. I've already made lemon curd twice this season, and I just wasn't up for marmalade. Pickling suddenly seemed like an appealing option, especially after I found a recipe that incorporated cardamom seeds, cloves, sugar, cayenne and fresh ground pepper along with the salt. I'm willing to give it another go!

Simple Lemon Pickle
Courtesy of Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian

2 pounds organic lemons (preferably not Meyer, because of their thin skins)
juice of 3 lemons
9 tablespoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon seeds of brown cardamom (I substituted green)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cayenne
16 whole cloves
1 & 1/2 tablespoons sugar (I used turbinado)
1 big jar, or several little ones, washed with hot soapy water and dried completely

Wash lemons thoroughly in hot soapy water, then wipe dry. Leave to dry completely for an hour or so in order to prevent mold.

Grind peppercorns, cardamom seeds and cloves in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Be sure to extract the cardamon seeds from the pods first. In a large bowl, stir the ground spices into the salt, sugar and cayenne.

Slice off the end of each lemon and quarter them. My lemons were large, and I cut many of them into 6 pieces. Remove the seeds. Toss the lemon slices with the spice mixture.

Fill your jar or jars. These can be stored for 7-10 days on a sunny windowsill. Try to shake the jar once a day. After 21-30 days, the skin will be soft and ready to use. When you open and start to use the lemons, move the jar to the refrigerator.

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