Preserving with salt has been a common method for storing vegetables past their season for centuries, and preserved lemons have long been a staple of Arab Mediterranean cuisines. There are different methods for making preserved lemons. Some recipes call for spices such as cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn and bay leaves. The Indian version of these pickled lemons uses an abundance of seasonings, including fenugreek seeds and turmeric. My recipe relies primarily on salt and sugar, so the fruit's bright flavor shines through. (A couple of sprigs of oregano gives them a Mediterranean bent). The preserving process is easy to do at home. Once the lemons are ready, I use them in classic Moroccan tagines, salad dressings and sandwiches, as well as marinades and stews. And since the rind is tender and completely edible, the whole lemon can be used.
Wash 10 of the lemons thoroughly and dry them completely (reserve the remaining 3 to 4 lemons for juicing). Cut off about 1/4 inch from the tip of the 10 lemons, then cut them almost all the way into quarters, keeping the ends attached.
Mix the sugar and 3/4 cup salt in a small bowl. Gently open each quartered lemon, use a small spoon to fill it with the salt mixture and close it back up. Place the lemons and remaining salt mixture in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to overnight. After this time, the lemons will have released some of their juices and become squishy.
Transfer the salted lemons and oregano if using to a sterilized quart glass jar with tight lid, pressing them tightly into the jar; you want as little space between the lemons as possible. Squeeze enough juice from the reserved lemons (about 3/4 cup) to fill the jar with lemon juice. You may need more or less juice, depending on the size of the lemons.
Refrigerate the lemons, turning the jar upside down every few days and then placing it back in the refrigerator right-side up, until the rinds are soft, 3 to 4 weeks. You can keep the preserved lemons in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Since the rinds of the lemons will be eaten, make sure the fruit is scrubbed very clean before preserving. If available, use organic lemons for this recipe.
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Properly handled sterilized equipment will keep canned foods in good condition for one year. Making sure hands, equipment and surfaces in your canning area are clean is the first step in canning. Tips: Jars should be made from glass and free of any chips or cracks. Preserving or canning jars are topped with glass, plastic or metal lids that have a rubberlike seal. Two-piece metal lids are most common. To prepare jars before filling: Wash jars with hot, soapy water, rinse them well and arrange them open-side up, without touching, on a tray. To sterilize jars, boil them in a large saucepan, covered with water, for 10 minutes. Jars have to be sterilized only if the food to be preserved will be processed for less than 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath or pressure canner. To sterilize jars, boil them in a large saucepan, covered with water, for 10 minutes. Follow manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and preparing lids and bands. Use tongs or jar lifters to remove hot sterilized jars from the boiling water. Be sure the tongs are sterilized too: Dip the tong ends in boiling water for a few minutes before using them. All items used in the process of making jams, jellies, preserves and pickles must be clean, including any towels and especially your hands. After the jars are prepared, you can preserve the food. It is important to follow any canning and processing instructions included in the recipe and refer to USDA guidelines about the sterilization of canned products. Find Information information on canning can be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website: http://nchfp.uga.edu/.
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