Chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives prepared at a cooking class at the Atlas Kasbah near Agadir.
It always seems to catch me by surprise. Before I realize it we have managed to find ourselves in the midst of the holiday season with tasks of getting a Christmas tree, wrapping presents and baking cookies taking up what ever spare time we can find.
I love it. Everything about this season fills me with joy. The generosity that abounds, the daily question of “how many days until Christmas?” from my very eager children, and the excitement of seeking that perfect gift.
This year we’ve decided to go homemade. I’m thrilled and overwhelmed with possibilities. My mission is to create a gift that is not only homemade but also very appreciated and will be used.
I’m pretty excited about this homemade gift from the kitchen. It’s unique, it’s incredibly delicious, easy to make and beautiful to receive. For me it carries with it memories of my time in Morocco. It took a visit to the country for me to fully embrace this ingredient but now that I’ve jumped on board I’m making up for lost time.
Preserved lemon is one of those flavors that is hard to distinguish but you’re glad it’s there. Both tart and sour but not overly so, floral without a soapy or perfumed aftertaste, a truly unique flavor that any one who loves food would be delighted to add to their pantry.
After only a few minutes of work sitting before you is a beautiful jar filled with vibrant lemons. The lemons themselves won’t be ready for thirty days but the recipient can spend that time pouring over recipes looking for ideas on how to use them. Myself? I like them on almost anything. Even Delancey has been known to throw them on pizzas. I added them to my prune and sausage stuffing for Thanksgiving and everyone seemed quite pleased. Tomorrow I’m planning a fennel salad, with green olives and preserved lemons. No special occasion, just my lunch and I’m pretty excited about it.
Here’s to hoping these lemons actually end up as gifts for someone other than myself.
adapted from Paula Wolfert, The Food of Morocco
1/4 cup salt, more if desired
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
5 coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
Have ready a sterile 1-pint canning jar.
Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the interior of the lemon, then reshape the fruit.
Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of the mason jar. Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt, and the optional spices between layers. Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons. (If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice — Leave some air space before sealing the jar.
Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. Let ripen for 30 days. To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under running water, removing and discarding the pulp, if desired — and there is no need to refrigerate after opening. Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year.
Gently shake the jar each day to distribute the salt.
* I adore these WECK jars for canning. Use the lemons and the recipient is still left with a great gift.