Saturday, December 5, 2009

Preserving Meyer Lemons

At this time of the year we see the beginnings of the citrus crop signaling that it will soon be winter with long, cold nights and rainy days. One of my favorite ingredients to make using citrus is preserved Meyer lemon rind. The Meyer lemon is a hybrid between a lemon and an orange that came from China. It was widely planted in California until it was understood to cause blight of other citrus crops. Nowadays there is the "improved" Meyer lemon that does not carry the blight. The fruits have delicate skins that will turn a blush of orange if left hanging on the tree long enough. When preserved, the rind is a savory, lightly sour and complex flavor balanced with salt that is used in the curing process. Any recipe that calls for acid and salt will benefit with preserved Meyer lemon rind as a substitute. One of my favorite is lemon-scented cauliflower. Simply mince some preserved Meyer lemon rind then mix with a bit of butter,salt and pepper, and brush onto washed florets. Roast the cauliflower for about 8 to 10 minutes until lightly golden brown. This is an excellent side dish. I also use the cooked cauliflower in savory souffl├ęs.

To preserve Meyer lemons, use a 1/2 liter canning jar. I like the kind with the glass lid and rubber band for sealing. Always sterilize the jar and use a new sterilized band before proceeding. Thinly slice the lemons and toss in a bowl with kosher salt.

Pack into jar and top with lemon juice to within 1/4 inch from the rim. Add three bay leaves and five or six black pepper corns. Wipe the rim with a damp towel and seal the jar. Over the next two weeks, leave the jar on your kitchen counter. Shake the jar every morning and every night. The lemon rind undergoes a lactic fermentation much the same as a kosher dill pickle or sauerkraut. Place finished jar in refrigerator. Preserved Meyer lemons keep at least a year. They also make a nice holiday gift.

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