Sometimes, I wish preserving projects had Sabermetrics scores.
VORC could not, alas, match PECOTA for pun potential, but, yes, preserved lemons will certainly up your chicken/fish/veal PICCATA game. They also zingify a couscous, farro, or other grain salad; lend a mellow warmth to a parsley-and-olive relish for fish; and inject a ray of sunshine when whizzed into your favorite pesto, cheese dip, or vinaigrette. How about the brine? Dose a bit into your next dirty martini or Bloody Mary, you genius mixologist, you.
A tip of my Cubs cap goes to Food in Jars, whose citrus-centric January Mastery Challenge reminded me that I’d used up the last of my preserved lemons back in December and hadn’t replenished my supply. My technique for this citrus lacto-pickle comes from Sandor Ellix Katz’s The Art of Fermentation.
When I can get them, I prefer Meyer lemons here, for their thinner skin and sweeter pulp, but regular ol’ lemons work, too. Because you’re going to be eating the whole thing—rind and all—though, do try to source organic fruit. Note, as well, that smaller fruits will allow you to pack more pieces tightly into each jar.
- about 1 pound fresh, unblemished lemons (5-6 small, 3-4 large), plus one extra
- 7-8 tbsp Kosher salt
In very hot water, wash your destination jar. My go-to is a Kilner or Le Parfait terrine jar (the kind with the rubber gasket and attached, clamped lid); the 4-1/4 inch-high version holds six smallish lemons, the 5-1/2 incher bumps the volume up to eight. Dry the jar with a clean cloth, and sprinkle in the first tablespoon of salt.
Reserve one lemon. Trim the ends off the rest, and cut them into quarters or sixths, stopping just before you slice all the way through.
Splay open the first lemon, rub a spoonful of salt onto the insides, and tuck it into the jar. Repeat with the other lemons, tucking in and pressing down as you go.
Clamp the jar tight and let it sit at room temperature. After 24 hours, press the fruit down with the back of a spoon to further release the juices. If the brine doesn’t cover all the fruit, add the juice of the lemon you reserved the day before.
Re-clamp the lid, and ferment on your counter for two to three weeks, shaking the jar gently (and burping the lid) every day, until the skins have softened completely. Move the jar to your refrigerator, where it will keep for up to a year.
To use, quickly rinse a piece in cool water and poke out any seeds. In cooked dishes, I generally add the pulp during cooking and save the minced rind (which can get a little gummy when heated) as a garnish. In raw dishes, though, I use the whole thing.
*PECOTA stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, and is actually a backronym stemming from Bill Pecota, an MLB utility infielder who played for the Royals, Mets, and Braves in the ’80s and ’90s. His lifetime batting average of .249 sits just below the average for all major leaguers. PECOTA projections are widely used by professional baseball organizations and fantasy-team managers alike. Now owned by Baseball Prospectus, the system was developed in the early 2000s by young Nate Silver, just a few years out of University of Chicago. Yeah, that Nate Silver.