We’ve arrived at that point in the year when the produce department looks exactly the same week after week. It’s been about four months since I’ve sniffed a tomato with any fragrance whatsoever, and I cannot bear to make another side dish using kale or butternut squash.
Thankfully, my awesome local grocery store carries a huge variety of cirtus fruits, which are in season all winter long. In addition to the usual suspects I found Meyer lemons, three types of kumquats, pink lemons, heirloom navel oranges, and Rangpur limes, a mandarin-lemon hybrid from Northern India.
I decided to preserve some of the citrus in the Moroccan tradition, which simply involves jarring the cut citrus and packing it with salt and the citrus juices. The citrus will soften and pickle in a dark cupboard for at least two weeks, and then will last for up to a year for use as a flavorful condiment or in recipes.
Preserved lemons in particular are commonly used when making tagine, a slow-cooked North African stew named for the clay pot in which it is cooked. I’m looking forward to using my preserved citrus with roasted meats, in sauces, compound butters, stir-fries, and maybe even in a few cocktails.
I chose sweet Meyer Lemons and orange-skinned Rangpur limes for my recipe, but you can use whatever sour citrus you like – grapefruits, limes, lemons, or any of their relatives. Get a batch going before citrus season is over and you’ll have plenty to last you all through the summer.
Preserved Meyer Lemons & Rangpur Limes
*makes one quart*
1 ½ # Meyer lemons, halved or quartered
1 ½ # Rangpur limes, halved or quartered
(OR substitute 3 # of the citrus of your choice)
1/2 C. coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 quart-size glass jar with lid
*optional additions: a cinnamon stick, a few cloves or bay leaves, allspice berries, one star anise (be careful with the star anise – the flavor can get very strong very fast – you may have to remove it early), etc…
In a large bowl, toss about 2/3 of the cut citrus with the salt (reserve the remaining citrus for juice). Pack the salted fruit into the jar, using the handle of a wooden spoon or spatula to push the pieces down into every nook and cranny. Do your best not to crush the fruit, just fill the jar snugly, leaving about one inch of space at the top. Top with any salt that remains in the bowl, and then squeeze over the remaining citrus until it covers all of the fruit.
Seal the jar and invert it several times to distribute the salt and juice. Place in a cool, dark place (a lower cupboard is a good choice), and allow to preserve for two weeks. Check on the jar every few days, and if necessary, push the citrus down below the juice level before re-capping and storing. Alternatively, you can invert the jar every few days, leave it upside-down, and then turn back over again a few days later.
After the initial pickling, you may want to store the preserved citrus in the refrigerator. It’s not necessary (this technique was created as a way to preserve citrus before refrigeration, of course), but it’s the safest choice.
As soon as my preserved citrus is ready, I’ll use it in a recipe and post it here!