'Viands' is for those who know that preparing food can be an end in itself, not just a means of getting something to eat. It's an irregular chronicle of play in the kitchen, emphasizing two areas: Processing techniques like charcuterie, salting, smoking, and so forth, and also the creative use of leftovers. Anyone can go out and buy everything needed to make something good, but to work only with what’s found at hand is a far greater challenge and, in the end, perhaps more satisfying.

Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Lemon Confit

A friend called and asked if we could use any Meyer lemons, as their tree had produced far more than they could use. We were expecting a bag or thereabouts but, somewhat to our dismay, received a full case! Lemons are fine, but what do you do with that many of them?

The family baker made a couple of cakes, some lemon curd, and a few other things without making much of a dent in the supply. After some research in the kitchen library, I’ve also suggested lemon vinegar for salad dressings, lemon brandy for general flavoring purposes, and perhaps some lemon jelly flavored with various herbs for use in glazes and so forth. I’m great at making suggestions so long as someone else does the work.

Since I’ve been doing more charcuterie again, I decided to expand into fruits and try some lemon confit. This is a basic method of preserving lemons in salt, often found in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Various herbs and/or spices can be added if desired, and the lemons can be cooked in olive oil prior to preservation. I decided to leave them plain and uncooked, with no added flavoring, in order to maximize their future utility.

The first step was to sort through the supply and select a group of similarly sized lemons, washing them thoroughly.

After that it was time to cut. Some people suggest cutting the lemons in quarters without going all the way through to the bottom (something like a radish rose), others like to score them about half an inch deep, but I just cut them in half the long way.

Next, I coated each piece with canning salt by shaking in a plastic bag for uniform coverage. Taking a sterilized wide-mouthed plastic container (don’t use anything reactive or the lemon/salt combination will eat it up!), I then covered the bottom with kosher salt and began packing in the lemon halves, keeping them as compact as possible and well-covered with more kosher salt as the packing process continued. They released a lot of juice as this went on, and when the container was full I topped it up with a little additional juice so that everything was covered. An additional topping-up was required a day later as more salt dissolved in the liquid and thus occupied less space in the jar.

Now we wait, letting the container sit quietly in the dark while the lemons swim in their salty juice for a month or so. I’ll check it out in a week or two and let you know how things are progressing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds interesting and probably delicious. But how did it turn out? I anxiously await a follow-up.

Tschuess. - drew

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Blogger ~ Wilbur M. Reeling ~ said...

-- these things cost us $1.50 each here in Maryland!! Two months ago I bought 6 and used Keller's 1/2 salt and 1/2 sugar from his cook book and covered them w/ olive oil for a few days. He cuts them paper thin and dusts both sides of the slice w/ the mix. I used them up in about a month. At the moment I have 6 regular lemons curing the same way to use as a comparison -- we'll see how they turn out.

by Wilbur M. Reeling
epicurean raconteur

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