Preserved lemons--a quick seasoning trick [RECIPE]

Preserved lemons look pretty, add a piquant flavor, and are oh-so-simple to make, provided you have the patience.

The Moroccan/Middle Eastern condiment keeps practically forever and can come in handy in all sorts of seasoning applications.

Here's what you'll need to make one pint of preserved lemons:

Ingredients * 5-6 lemons (use Meyer and/or organic), scrubbed clean * 1/2 cup kosher salt (regular, iodized table salt can add a harsh, chemical note) * (optional) spices, such as a blend of fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and bay leaf * a month's time

Directions: First, if you're using spices, mix them into the sea salt. Halve the lemons and cut an X-shape into the cross-section, almost to the base, but so the quarters remain together. Rub a tablespoon or two of the salt mixture into each lemon half and pack them tightly into a jar. (Some recipes call for the jar to be sterile, others don't, so do what's comfortable.) Juice the remaining lemon(s) that don't fit and add the liquid to cover the lemons. Sprinkle another tablespoon of salt on top and seal the jar. The lemons may float for a few days, but after they get soft, you can open the jar and pack them down tighter until they stay submerged.

The lemons will be ready to use after one month of preserving at room temperature. (Some recipes call for refrigeration but most don't. I've seen shelf lives quoted from anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.) The process also works for other citrus fruits, if you want to experiment with other batches.

Uses: Both the peel and pulp are edible, but the peel will be more bitter. Use to salt rice or couscous and add an aromatic lemon scent. Great in tagines and stews, and with many lamb, chicken, and fish dishes. The pulp can also be pureed and used in vinaigrettes.

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