Oranges and Lemons (Preserved)

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Oranges and lemons,

Say the bells of St. Clement’s.

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Since arriving back from our trip to Israel, I’ve been hankering for the fresh, warmly-spiced food that this incredible country has to offer.  This is clearly a nicer way of saying that I’ve basically been stuffing my face with tahini and honey on bread for the past two weeks whilst glued to repeats of Yotam Ottolenghi’s excellent ‘Mediterranean Feast’ television series.  The mother-in-law was worrying about my intake of sesame paste.  The husband was worrying about my virtual crush on a television chef.  It was time I did something about it.  So I’ve gone preserving…

Preserving is very easy and lots of fun; and even though I’ve made jars and jars of jams and jellies (and some hideous pickled cucumbers) over the years, I’d yet to make my own preserved lemons.  And what better time to do this with all the middle eastern withdrawal symptoms settling in.

Being an east Londoner, I couldn’t do lemons without oranges.  So today I took the babies back to sleep in the car park of Sunseed Organics, my favourite organic fresh produce store, and bought myself a box of knurled, sunshine-yellow lemons and two handfuls of ruby-red blood oranges.  The only other things I needed were salt (and lots of it), and a herb and spice (which are optional if you decide to make your own.  Traditional preserved lemons often simply consist of the fruit and salt).

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I wanted to preserve my lemons with cinnamon and my oranges with rosemary.  The duet of lemon and cinnamon is an old stalwart – a classic mix that Moroccans have been using in their cooking for, like, ever.  The blend of blood orange and rosemary is one borrowed from Skye Gyngell that I have referred to once before in my Orange and Bay Jelly recipe here.

Luckily for me, I had the remaining ingredients in the mother-in-law’s kitchen: I’d picked up a load of cinnamon sticks from the shuk in Jerusalem; and my mother had recently given me a colossal tub of incredible Bretagne grey sea salt that she discovered in TK Maxx, of all places.  I can safely say that these are probably the world’s first preserved lemons made using ingredients from a shopping centre off the M25 and a spice market in the middle east.

My recipes for Preserved Lemons and Preserved Oranges reveal me at my laziest: I offer no measurements, I’m afraid.  But I think that’s ok.  Instead I proffer you use your wily kitchen head and just go for it.  Once ready to use – in about a month or so, but the longer you leave these the better the flavour – the pulp and peel of the fruits can be cut up to season and add flavour to a variety of dishes and drinks: from tagines, rice, vegetables and chicken soups to bloody Marys (cannot wait!), fish and seafood, and desserts.  And if you’ve ever got a sore belly, eat a little preserved lemon – it’s given to treat stomach ailments in Ayurvedic medicine.

I made these jars of preserved lemons and oranges in one short evening during a small window of opportunity – when the children had gone to bed and the sun was still high enough in the sky to photograph the process.  That’s how quick and easy this is.

Note: Always use organic, unwaxed fruit as you will be eating the exterior.  And David Lebovitz recommends using the smallest fruits possible – I imagine this is for flavour.

Ingredients

Preserved Lemons
A sterilised preserving jar
As many lemons as you can squeeze into the jar, plus more for juicing later
A stick of cinnamon
Loads of coarse sea salt

Preserved Oranges
A sterilised preserving jar
As many blood oranges as you can squeeze into the jar, plus more for juicing later (ideally use blood as their slight sharpness is more resembling of the lemon)
A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary
Loads of coarse sea salt

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Method

To sterilise the preserving jar(s): wash thoroughly with warm soapy water, then fill up with freshly boiled water, and seal for five minutes.  Empty the water, then leave to dry completely (resisting the urge to put your dirty mitts inside!).

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Wash and dry your fruit.  Remove any stalks and the little knobbly bit (I call it the belly button!) at the end of the fruit.

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Using a sharp knife, cut down length-ways through the fruit twice (forming a cross), going almost all the way down until just a inch from the bottom.

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Grab a generous handful of salt and stuff the fruit with it, packing it down firmly.  Then put the fruit into the jar with the opening facing upward.  Continue doing this with the rest of the fruit, pushing each piece firmly down to try to squeeze as many pieces of fruit in as possible.

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Once you have stuffed the jar, feed your herb or spice in (if using), and finally seal.

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Leave for a couple of days until the salt draws out some of the fruits’ liquid.  Then open up the jar and firmly press all the fruit down to release the juices so that the fruit is covered with the liquid.  If there isn’t enough squeeze extra fruit and add this juice to the jar.

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Continue to do this process – of pressing down and covering with juice – twice more, every two days.  Then leave for a month (or longer) until the lemons are soft and ready to use.  Once opened, refrigerate and use within 6 months.

Glossary
The Shuk – the nickname for the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem
Oranges and Lemons‘ – is an English nursery rhyme and children’s game about the bells of various churches within the City of London, say the bells of St. Clements…

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

2 comments
  1. Beautiful pictures! The crunchy white salt with the vibrant citrus fruits looks so pretty. I will certainly be braving TK Max for the glut of salt, although it will be a hit and run as the place terrifies me! Katie

    • Thanks so much, Katie. Yes, if you can brave the mayhem you may find yourself a culinary bargain!

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