Monday, February 25, 2013

easy lemon pickle

About ten years ago, I fell, with a huge thud, head over heels in love with all things Moroccan. The colours and crafts, the food and architecture, the spare, haunting beauty of the almost lunar-like landscapes, even, the Moroccan sun. I know there's just the one sun, thank you. But, in Morrocco, it casts a different light, it just does, and everything looks more beautiful, under it. I decided that if I were destined to die unexpectedly, in a tragic and dramatic fashion, please, please, please, powers that be, let me be lost in Moroccan Sahara, and never again found.



I once made a  tall jar of Moroccan preserved lemons that believe it or not, still stands in my cupboard with some of the original contents from 2003. I had two lemons left and was curious about how long they could last, as I'd read that these preserved lemons, if made properly could last indefinitely or till Armageddon, whichever came first. Challenge accepted!


Well, after almost ten years, I have to grudgingly tip my hat to the Moroccans. They know pickles and they know lemons. They now look too alarming to even consider eating (see that ominously dark pointed ovoid in the saucer below?), but in that dark, murky brine, the lemons are otherwise perfectly preserved, I dare say, mummified or should that be lemomified? Having lived to the ripe, old age of ten, a very venerable age for lemons I'm told, I wonder if they might perhaps, cure cancer, or even, the common cold....


The familiar and appetite sharpening scent of slightly musky and sharp salted citrus from the lemon crypt made my stomach growl for some chicken tajine with cous cous, rice or flatbread. But like I said, no way was I letting those fossilised fruit near my mouth. So, like a hungry wolf, keening for fresh, warm meat, I went lemon hunting and came back with half a dozen.



I couldn't wait the full 6 weeks I always endure, squirming with impatience, when I make preserved lemons, so this time, I decided to do a quick version which was ready in 7 days. It's not as intense or fragrant, but it's still very good. Unlike Moroccan preserved lemons which are so explosively flavourful they don't lend themselves to casual nibbling and certainly won't play nice with a sandwich and soup lunch, these lemon chunks, tempered with sugar, are much friendlier.



They add a zesty edge to a toasted cheese sandwich, a stuffed pita or your favourite flat bread and curry combo. I can't resist lifting pieces from the jar and nibbling on them, like buah kana (Asian preserved fruit), favourite snack of expectant mums and those who go green at the gills, after 5 minutes in a trundling vehicle.



My favourite flatbread of the moment, has fallen completely in love with my favourite new pickle, and the two are now inseparable. I'm hurt, but I bear no grudge and wish them both happiness and the patter of tiny, pickled, bready feet very, very soon. Something bound to happen, the way those two have been going at it *ahem* I'll just close the door on my way out.....





easy lemon pickle

prep 3 days        makes 1 med jar (10 - 12 servings)


6 medium sized unwaxed  lemons (I buy lemons labelled unwaxed and soak them in very warm water - I have trust issues)
100 g (2/3 cup) sugar
60 g (1/3 cup) salt
2 tsp brown mustard seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
2 tsp dry or English mustard (powder)



Wash lemons well, scrubbing the skins gently. Soak washed lemons in very warm water for 45 minutes 1 hour.

Drain and dry lemons thoroughly with clean cloth or kitchen paper. Cut off a little of the top and bottom from each lemon. Cut each lemon vertically in half . Cut each half  into 6 chunks. Each lemon will yield 12 chunks. Collect and reserve any juice that leaks out when cutting.

Combine lemons with all the remaining ingredients, including any juice, in a non-metallic bowl and mix thoroughly but gently so lemons don't bruise.

Transfer lemons and all liquid to a clean, dry sterilised jar and seal. Keep jar away from light and chills. Your kitchen cupboard would be perfect. Shake every 12 hours for 3 days. You could do this for a week for a more intense pickle. After 7 days, always store jar in the fridge (especially in the tropics) and eat it all up within 4 months.

Always decant pickle from jar with a clean dry spoon. Never touch pickle directly with fingers unless you're eating it, never dip your eating spoon into the jar *tsk tsk*. Serve with North African, Indian or Thai food.


18 comments:

  1. Hi Denise,
    Just lovely !
    We don't get meyer lemons in the area that I live but every winter, I pickle limes that get good enough to eat in a week and they live FOREVER. I sometimes add a few whole peppercorns and a sprinkling of chillie flakes too.

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    1. Hi Usha, oh yes, chilli flakes sound very, very good! I think it will be in my next batch of pickled lemons :) Wish I could get my hands on some Meyer lemons. Been fantasising about the things I would do to them, if they fell into my greedy clutches ;)

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  2. Hi Denise,

    may I know where I can get unwaxed lemons in Sg? The ones I saw in Cold Storage and wet markets are of waxed variety.

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    1. Hi Rebecca, once in a very blue moon, they pop up at my neighbourhood supermarket. But, like I said, I don't trust the labels, so they still get a hot water soak and scrub from me. You could try Farmart Centre, if you're really interested. The address is 67 Sungei Tangah Rd. Happy hunting!

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  3. I pickled some Meyer lemons way back in April 2012 and have only used one for a roast chicken. They were a little too soft and salty by the time I got round to using them. They are even softer now. Hopefully they don't get to the dark ominous stage like the one shown in your picture. It will be interesting to see what you are going to use them for. :)

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    1. *sigh* Those Meyer lemons, they are so elusive. When will I be able squeeze and smell one? ;) I think that regular lemons may actually be better for pickling as Meyer lemons are softer and juicier than regular ones and less acidic too.

      Hmmm...... I was thinking of sending one of those mummified lemons to the Smithsonian for display. I certainly would not dare to eat them LOL

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  4. Wow Denise! 10-year old preserved lemon! Didn't know that lemon can be aged for so long... To infinity and beyond!

    Haha, I couldn't stop laughing reading your last paragraph...

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    1. Hahaha! Even my boys laughed when they read your comment :D

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  5. I just made preserved lemons and I don't know how I've lived without them for this long! I love your method of cutting them up into little chunks first, it sure makes them easier to fit in the jar, and so perfect for snacking on!

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    1. Hi Sue :) Yes, cutting the lemons makes everything easier and the salt, sugar and mustard penetrate the chunks much faster than they would whole slit, whole lemons. These chunks really are surprisingly good to nibble on!

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  6. Denise,
    Speaking of dark ovoids....in North India whole limes/lemons are pickled with spices and plenty of salt and left out in the sun in thick-walled glass jars for a month or more,till the fruit turns a deep mahogany.They resemble Gulab Jamuns ,a very popular Indian sweet. And they are delicious !

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    1. Hmm, they sound a bit like the black pickled limes of the Persian Gulf, though I've never seen either. I love pickles of any nationality, race or creed ;) Any chance of a recipe in the offing? *hint hint hint*

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    2. Most certainly...will mail you the recipe as soon as I get home and after I have shaken off the after-vacation blues. I know I have it somewhere...it's been years since I made a batch.

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    3. Thank you Usha :) I'm definitely looking forward to it! Take all the time you need - falling back into reality, after a vacation, can really hurt LOL

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  7. I can completely see this being just delish so many things~ dal and rice especially. And may I just say that your pics are superb and so is the styling as always :)

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

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    1. Oh yes, there's always room for rice (or bread) and dal on my plate Devaki :) I really enjoyed these pickles smooshed into garlic naan just last week. Thank you so much, my friend - you are always sweetness itself!

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  9. Wow awesome recipe! Thanks for sharing with us; when I started looking from this perspective, a very interesting website picklemasti hit my eye. I visited website, I came to know they were offers from picklemasti(dot)com a sample of Mango Pickle (100gms) at doorstep absolutely FREE!!!! And it a Limited offer Indian pickle

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