This recipe is inspired from the ‘Preserve Lemon Chutney’ by the late chef Floyd Cardoz –victim of the corona-virus epidemic. It brilliantly solves the problem of the straightforward, whole lemons made the traditional way, which loose their fruitiness as they take ages to ferment.
But most importantly when they finally do ferment and their pith becomes soft and nearly translucent, they usually have such a strong, salty and bitter taste that their use as flavoring are extremely limited. Even few pieces added to rubs or marinades for meat or oily fish can overpower all other flavors and aromatics in a way that is not actually pleasant even for the most avid lemon lovers as myself; Costas really hates them.
One of the victims of Covid 19, “Mr. Cardoz was the first chef born and raised in India to lead an influential New York City kitchen, at Tabla, which he and the restaurateur Danny Meyer opened in the Flatiron district of Manhattan in 1998. Soon after, Ruth Reichl of The New York Times gave Mr. Cardoz’s cooking a rapturous review,” as we read in his NYT Obituary.
His brilliant description of how to make fast and fruity fermented lemon wedges, in order to use them for his chutney, was really what I was looking for. I tested and played with his instructions –not the chutney, but just the preserved lemons— and here is what I now make and use and love!
“At the restaurant we preserve lemons all year round, and use them endlessly in salads, dishes with a north African feel, or puréed with crème fraîche, which we serve on roasted fish,” writes chef Cardoz.
I would add that these wonderful lemon pieces are complimenting my skordalia (garlic sauce), as well as potato salads, boiled greens (horta), steamed broccoli or cauliflower, and of course poached fish or chicken. I like to julienne the preserved lemon pieces and use in my salad dressings, and to flavor freshly cured olives, and all kinds of bean salads.
Fast Preserved Lemon Wedges
For 1 litre (quart) Jar
About 250g/8oz semi-coarse sea salt
6-8 lemons, well washed and cut into quarters, each quarter halved or cut into 3, depending on their size. Cut-off the thick center and seeds.
Extra lemon juice, to cover
Scatter a spoonful of salt into a one-quart (1 liter) jar. Place the lemons in a bowl with the rest of the salt and toss together well. Now simply pack the lemon pieces into the jar. Press down firmly on the fruit to release as much juice as possible. Spoon in the rest of the salt mixture from the bottom of the bowl and add enough extra lemon juice to cover.
Place the lid on the jar. Let the lemons stand for about a week or 10 days in a cool place –not the fridge. They are ready when their white pith starts to be translucent.
Transfer the lemons to a colander and rinse under running water, then soak in fresh water for 2-3 hours or overnight. How long you need to rinse them depends on the kind of lemons you used and the taste you are looking for. Our lemons do not need long soaking after I rinse them.
Drain and scatter on a tray lined with double paper towel to dry for a few hours, or overnight.
You can pack the dry, preserved lemon wedges in jars, filled with olive oil and store in the fridge or you can freeze the dried pieces in a zipper bag.