Missing in action

I had my heart set on making marmalade today, and that symbol of winter preserving would have jibed so well with the blizzard that turned streets into a skating rink this morning. But Seville oranges have not made it to the Toronto market yet, and while you can use other citrus fruit to make a perfectly decent marmalade, I wanted that thick, bitter Seville orange peel for the right sort of thick, bitter slather on toast marmalade.

So I bought lemons instead, because I’ve not made decent preserved lemons for ages, and because I love the way they taste.

And that reminded me how scarily easy preserved lemons are to make. There’s no cooking, no slicing and dicing, just a little measuring, a lot of squeezing and then at least four weeks of patience at the end.

In a break with tradition, I actually cut the lemons in quarters rather than trying to leave them whole, and dipped the cut sides into the salt rather than trying to pack salt into an almost sliced lemon and then trying to force a recalcitrant lemon out of a narrow-necked jar at the end of the preserving session. You can fit more lemons into the jar that way. Now all I need to do is find room in the fridge and remember to turn the jar upside down every few days.

Preserved lemons
(Adapted slightly from “Pickles, Chutneys and Relishes”, a slim Australian number that has yet to let me down.)
6-8 small organic lemons, quartered lengthwise
2 tbsp coarse salt
1 cinammon stick
1 tsp cardamon seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds (I used black)
1 bay leaf (I was flat out of bay leaves, so omitted that one)

Dip the cut side of the lemons into the salt, and then pack tightly into a sterilized jar. Add spices. Pour in lemon juice to cover completely.
Store in the fridge, shaking and turning the jar every few days, for at least 4 weeks.
You use the rind only, sliced to taste, and added to whatever you feel like adding it to. But I admit I save the salty lemon juice too once the lemons are gone. A teaspoon adds a kick to any number of dishes. Ideas welcome.

And while I’m posting, here are a few ratings from the season, just to prove that not all the experiments work.

Strawberry rhubarb jam
We made 10 jars of this baby, but I suspect I gave a lot of them away, and if others are as disappointed as I am, I do apologise. I mean this jam is nice enough, but for me it doesn’t quite come together. The first time we made this it was a strawberry jam, with melted-down rhubarb adding an extra bite. It was yummy. This time the recipe called for macerating the rhubarb overnight before adding strawberries to the mix, and we ended up with little cubes of fairly sweet rhubarb floating in a strawberry-vanilla syrup. Tasty. Not special.
Rating: 3 (out of five)

Apricot cherry jam
A use-up-the-leftovers experiment, where we threw cherries and apricots together to see how they would work. The set is perfect, but sadly that’s where the perfection ends. Again, the taste is nice enough, but there are two tastes, not one. One mouthful is glorious apricot, and the next is slightly chewy cherry. If I close my eyes, I am honestly not sure I would know what I’m eating. That is sad.
I think this is crying out to be turned into thumbprint cookies. It might be better there.
Rating: 2-1/2 (out of five). It gains points for the set, and because the husband loves it. It loses points because I can’t quite figure out what it is.


  1. When I first saw the lemons and the word ‘marmalade’ I had dearly hoped you were going to make a lemalade (by the way I was extremely pleased that my 8 year old recently started a love affair with marmalade – it is an acquired taste). But these preserves look very promising indeed. My mum used to make pickled lemons which suited spicy Asian food. I’m thinking yours will be lovely with Greek food and fish meals. What plans do you have for them?

  2. They are really nice with Middle Eastern food — anything tangine like. I made chicken with lemons and dates once. And they go with veggies too, not to mention grilled salmon, potato salad. These ones are more salty than spicy. Now that I remember how easy they are I should try with different seasonings.

    Maybe I’ll make lemon marmalade (lemalade?) with the leftover lemons. I spotted a nice recipe the other day.

    Watch this space.

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