ART. FOOD. LIFE.
My friend Marti gave me a treasure for my birthday years ago — a Meyer Lemon tree. I have had years and years of successful crops of lemons! My husband Jay wishes so much that it was a tangerine tree…
Meyer lemon trees are scraggly. They don’t grow in a regular fashion but prefer to spread out. You can even espalier them to the side of a house or trellis. I tell Jay it’s a great attribute of the Meyer Lemon tree. Our tree is growing sort of sideways right now, reaching for full sun; it annoys Jay. When I told him this morning that I had harvested some beautiful lemons and preserved them in jars with salt and spices… his response: “imagine if that was a tangerine tree and your out working in the yard, sweating and you walk over a pick a nice juicy tangerine.” Me: ” But lemons are so beneficial! ”
Over the last 4 or 5 years my annual crop is around 70 large Meyer lemons. Not the little tiny California grown Meyer lemons either, but big Florida, size of a grapefruit, lemons. I’ve canned jars and jars of lemon marmalade, cherry lemon marmalade, lemon fig marmalade, lemon honey jelly and preserved jars and jars of lemons.
Preserved lemons are made with lots of salt and I like to add the suggested spices; cinnamon, cloves, coriander and peppercorns. You wash your lemons very well since what you will eventually be using is the peel. Use sea salt or good canning salt and layer the lemon sections, spices and salt in canning jars; squeezing the juice from the sections into the jar as you go. Once your jars are filled, you put lids on, not too tightly, and set them in a dark place (my pantry) to start the fermenting process. Every day or two open the lid to release built up gasses and gently shake them up to re-distribute the salt. After a week or two the fermenting process has created a funky, lovely, exciting aroma :) Now you can stick the jar in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation. The great thing is… you can keep your preserved lemons for a year or more in the fridge and use when wanted.
I use them for seafood soups and stews, my version of Moroccan chicken with lemons and olives, seafood marinades, vinaigrette… etc. To use the lemon you remove the sections from the jar and rinse well to wash away the salt. You also remove the pulp and discard, leaving the soft aged peel to chop, mince, dice — whatever you like.
Another great benefit of having a Meyer Lemon tree… their lovely purplish blooms have one of the best fragrances and your whole yard will smell heavenly. Bon Appetit and happy gardening!