Back before refrigerators were commonplace in homes, preservation was important if you wanted to eat come winter. That's why every culture has recipes and methods of pickling or fermentation.
One popular way to preserve is to create a flavorful brine with vinegar, salt, sugar and spices. Another, is to pack items in salt, which will pull moisture from the food you're going to pickle and create its own brine.
For this recipe, take as many lemons as you have on hand, and cut them into 6 wedges, leaving them attached at the base of the lemon.
At this point, it's a good idea to freeze the lemons overnight. As they thaw, they'll release even more juice for their brine.
Once you've taken your lemons out of the freezer, pack the lemons with salt. There is not a specific measurement, but you want to completely cover the flesh of the lemon with kosher salt. Usually whatever sticks to the lemon is good enough.
Put a thin layer of kosher salt at the bottom of a Tupperware container. Pack your salted lemons in as tightly as possible. I like to apply some pressure to start to extract the juice from the lemons.
Make sure that as the lemons start to leach moisture, that there is enough juice to completely cover the lemons, even if you need to weigh them down or add some additional lemon juice. Having the lemons completely covered ensures that each lemon is in an environment that allows good bacteria to thrive and doesn't allow bad bacteria to grow.
After two weeks stored at room temperature in a cool, dark place, your lemons should be soft, flavorful and salty!
The finely minced rinds of these lemons are a flavor bomb of acidity and salt. Preserved lemons brighten up anything from a vinaigrette to a salsa to pasta dishes to tagines and more.
To learn more about the science behind the chemical changes that occur in food due to the presence of good bacteria and the delicious flavors that result, The Chopping Block offers Cooking Lab: The Art of Fermentation at Lincoln Square on Saturday, September 23 at 10am. We'll also discuss the health benefits of naturally fermented foods including the creation of beneficial enzymes and probiotics. Did you know that eating and drinking fermented foods can aid in digestion and weight loss, and even decrease brain fog?