No word yet on a delivery date for our household goods. At least once every day for the past week or more, I have a moment of complete and overwhelming frustration at being in life limbo and my total inability to do anything to change that. This is usually rapidly followed by an internal talking-to about my first world problems and an attempt to focus my attention elsewhere, on things that I can control.
This past weekend, my displacement activity was an afternoon in the kitchen, focused on cooking projects that I could carry out with the TUK’s limited resources: a batch of skillet jam for Miss B’s morning toast; a batch of roasted rhubarb (plus strawberries) for my morning yogurt; a tray of cinder toffee, drizzled with chocolate and boxed up as a hostess gift for a lunch invitation for the following day (more on this later); and two jars of preserved lemons.
Preserved lemons are a great project to undertake when you’re itching to can something, but the circumstances aren’t auspicious. At the moment, I don’t have a pot deep enough to water-bath can anything. Nor is it exactly high season for cannable produce in Canberra right now, what with it being the last month of winter and all. But citrus is definitely still in season – I got 2 kilos (~4.5 lbs) of various kinds for about AUD $5 last week at the famers’ market – and preserved lemons require exactly two ingredients: lemons and salt.
Perhaps even more appropriately for my current situation, preserved lemons also require a third, less tangible element: time. Recipes generally recommend that you let them do their thing (steep? brew? pickle? ferment?) for at least 3 weeks before using. So this project, in addition to giving purpose to a weekend afternoon and preserving a fruit at the height of its quality, is also an investment in my own future – a physical manifestation of the hope that, by the time these lemons are ready to use, I’ll be back in a kitchen of my own, settling in to the next phase of this transition.
All of the recipes I looked at included complicated instructions for slicing into the lemons to get salt into their insides while keeping them intact. Since I immediately screwed this technique up on my very first lemon, I made the executive decision that quartering the lemons wouldn’t dramatically alter the chemical process going on here, or the taste of the finished product. Plus, it made them easier to cram into the jars.
8 lemons, unwaxed if possible
2 cups/~12 oz/360 g of kosher/cooking salt
Have available 1 or 2 clean jars for storing the lemons. Avoid metal lids, as these could corrode from the salt/acid concentration.
Wash and dry the lemons, scrubbing skins if necessary to remove any grit or dirt. Put salt into a medium-sized bowl. Cut the lemons into quarters and toss in the salt to coat, then stuff into the jars, pressing down on them to release the juice. Try to extract enough juice to cover the contents of the jar(s); once you have filled up the jar(s), sprinkle over 1-2 Tbsp of salt as insurance.
Close the jar(s) and store in a cool place, away from direct sunlight, for at least 3 weeks. Turn the jar(s) occasionally to redistribute the juice and salt.
Stay tuned for updates on how mine turned out - and what I do with them.