Renowned chef Paula Wolfert gave us inspiration at the Clay Coyote for making a Moroccan cooking dish called a tagine. You can see in our previous article the history of the tagine and a few recipes you can make in your own. Here, we are describing a technique suggested by Paula Wolfert to enhance your tagine dishes: preserving lemons.
Preserved lemons for tagine recipes is a staple. They are used for savory recipes including chicken and lamb dishes, vegetable tagines, and even incorporated into salads in dressings. They have a unique taste compared to regular fresh lemon juice.
When pickling lemons, it’s suggested using lemons from California or Florida. There is a variant of an orange and a lemon called a Meyers lemon. They are especially sweet tasting and have a smooth rind. They are in season in January and February. When you pickle lemons, you can reuse the juice over and over again. Paula suggests keeping a jar of the juice, and throwing in leftover lemons in the jar to always have some lemons marinating.
Make sure when preserving lemons that they are completely covered in the salt and lemon juice mixture. Sometimes you will see a white substance covering the lemons. It’s completely harmless, but be sure to wash the lemons to remove the substance for aesthetic reasons and so the salty taste is removed. When taking lemons out of the jar, use wooden utensils. You can cook with the whole lemon; you don’t have to use only the juice.
In the article, Paula has tips on cleaning and sanitizing jars for preserving lemons if you have never canned before. In totality, preserving the lemons will take 30 days but only requires 10 minutes of prep the first day. Make sure you have a mason jar (the bigger the better), shallow bowl, and a sharp knife. Ingredients include about a dozen lemons, ¼ cup salt, and optional ingredients like cinnamon, clove, coriander, peppercorn, or bay leaf.
Here’s where the preparations begin. If you wish, you can soften the rinds of the lemons by soaking them in water for three days, changing the water out each day. What you will do with the lemons is quarter them from the top to within ½ inch of the bottom. Put salt in the exposed flesh and close up the fruit. Put one tablespoon of salt on the bottom of the mason jar. Pack the lemons in the jar, continuing to add salt and the optional spices. To make more room, press the lemons down to add more lemons and to release some natural lemon juice. Leave some space at the top of the jar and put the lid on.
Keep jar in a warm, dry place so the lemons can ripen. Each day, shake the jar to mix the salt and juice. Let the lemons ripen for 30 days. When you are ready to use them, take them out of the jar with wooden tongs and rinse them, removing all salt and pulp if desired. Do not refrigerator the jar after opening. You can use the lemons for up to a year and reuse the juice to make more lemons around 2-3 times.
These traditional Moroccan style lemons will enhance your tagine meals and make them taste like you shopped the souks that afternoon.
Need your own tagine? Stop by the Clay Coyote to find your perfect handmade ceramic flameware tagine available in four different glazes. We’re open everyday Monday-Saturday 10-5pm and Sunday 12-4pm. Grab your tagine and get cookin’!