Preserved citrus

May 2, 2012 § 11 Comments


Lately I’ve been on a bit of a preservation/pickling kick, as evidenced by the pickled beets previous. After impatiently waiting for a few weeks while the salt and acid worked its magic, I can enjoy the fruits of my labor, preserved lemons and preserved oranges.

The preserved lemons are a classic Mediterranean/Maghrebian/Middle Eastern dish, with each region having a preferred spice mix. My version seems to be most common in Moroccan cuisine, with coriander adding a nutty warmth and slight muskiness to the bright lemons. I also poked in a dried chilli because I like spice. The lemons are great chopped finely and added to tagines and couscous dishes, and they also go well with poultry too.


As for the preserved oranges, I decided to take them in an almost Chinese direction, with a hint of Szechuan peppercorns adding a tingling spiciness, chillis for yet more added heat, and my favorite, a broken point of star anise providing a licorice undercurrent. They’re an almost-fusion experiment that turned out even more successful than I could’ve hoped.

The preserved oranges, due to their distinctive and assertive flavors, are best served simply, for instance diced up and tossed into a homey traybake with chicken pieces, with soy sauce drizzled over top. I like to serve the baked chicken with rice and some steamed bai tsai (bok choy) on the side.

(I’m also envisioning a modern take on duck à l’orange, though I’ve been held back so far by the tragic tale of a certain someone’s pet duck who met its untimely end at the hands of house-sitters over Thanksgiving. Poor Canard…)

Anyway, making these zingy and intriguing preserved citrus couldn’t be easier or more fun; if you can wield a knife and possess clean jars and a modicum of patience, they are done in five minutes (or less, if you aren’t taking pictures). The spice combinations below are my suggestions, but have fun experimenting and adapting!

Preserved lemons with coriander and chilli

Makes one eight-ounce (250 ml) jar of preserved lemons

Ingredients

  • Three lemons, unwaxed, preferably organic (if you can get Meyer lemons you are in for a real treat)
  • Three tablespoons kosher salt or large-grain sea salt (not table salt)
  • One tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 dried chilli

1. Clean the canning jars, lids, and rings thoroughly in hot water and let air dry (be careful not to touch the inside of the jars or lids when handling).

2. Drop the coriander seeds and dried chilli piece into the clean jar, set aside.

3. Wash the lemons and pat dry. Cut the stem end of a lemon off, and then place the lemon cut-side up. Carefully cut the lemon as if to quarter it, but don’t cut through all the way to the bottom of the lemon; you should be able to fan out the pieces of the lemon without it coming apart. Repeat with the second lemon, reserving the third lemon. Pick out any obvious seeds.

4. Cup the cut lemon in the palm of your hand and pour over one tablespoon of kosher or large-grain sea salt, then gently squeeze the lemon shut to prevent too much salt from falling out (inevitably some will). Stuff the lemon into the jar. Repeat with the second segmented lemon. Pour over the remaining tablespoon of salt.

5. Slice the remaining lemon in half and squeeze in the lemon juice to top off the jar. Place the lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator, shaking the jar every once in a while. If the lemon juice level drops, as it frequently does within the first few days, simply top with more freshly-squeezed lemon juice.

6. Let the lemons hang out in the refrigerator at least two weeks. They will keep for up to one year, though ideally should be used up within six months. Rinsed the preserved lemons before using.

Note: this recipe is easily increased. You can also opt to make a really large jar, if you have one and want lots of preserved lemons. I find that with my limited refrigerator space, it is easier to make small jars more frequently

Preserved oranges with Szechuan pepper, star anise, and chilli

Makes two eight-ounce (250 ml) jars of preserved oranges

Ingredients

  • Three oranges, unwaxed, preferably organic
  • Four tablespoons kosher salt or large-grain sea salt (not table salt), divided
  • One tablespoon whole Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 dried chilli, cracked in half again
  • One point of star anise (not the whole pod), cracked in half

1. Clean the canning jars, lids, and rings thoroughly in hot water and let air dry (be careful not to touch the inside of the jars or lids when handling).

2. Divide the Szechuan peppercorns, dried chilli pieces, and star anise point pieces evenly between the clean jars, set aside.

3. Wash the oranges and pat dry. Cut the stem end off one orange, and then halve the orange across its equator. Carefully cut the orange halves as if to quarter each half, but don’t cut through all the way to the bottom of the orange nor through the top half’s top either; you should be able to fan out the pieces of the orange halves without it coming apart.

4. Cup a segmented orange half in the palm of your hand and pour over one tablespoon of kosher or large-grain sea salt, then gently squeeze the orange shut to prevent too much salt from falling out (inevitably some will). Stuff the orange half into a jar. Repeat with the second segmented orange half, placing it in the second jar. Pour over an additional tablespoon of salt over each orange half. (You may be able to shoehorn two orange halves into one jar, depending on the size of your oranges.)

5. Slice the remaining oranges in half and squeeze in the orange juice to top off each jar. Place the lids on the jars and store in the refrigerator, shaking the jar every once in a while. If the orange juice level drops, as it frequently does within the first few days, simply top with more freshly-squeezed lemon or orange juice (whichever is handy).

6. Let the oranges hang out in the refrigerator at least two weeks. They will keep for up to six months. Rinse the preserved oranges before using.

Note: this recipe is easily increased. You can also opt to make a really large jar, if you have one and want lots of preserved oranges. I find that with my limited refrigerator space, it is easier to make small jars more frequently.

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§ 11 Responses to Preserved citrus

  • Eileen says:

    Very interesting! I never know what to do with salt-preserved citrus, so I never make it…which is sad, since I have both a lemon and an orange tree. Those oranges are really different, though–I can definitely see chopping them up and using them in marinades, for example. Thanks for the great idea!

    • k.m. says:

      How lucky you are to have a lemon and an orange tree. One day I might get an indoor lemon tree, but it’s probably not the same.

      I used to be kind of intimidated by preserved citrus too, because besides Moroccan tagines I couldn’t think of anything to do with them. I really like the lemons with lamb and other rich meats, it cuts through some of the heaviness. (The oranges probably would be better with beef though.)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • whatnomints says:

    I never thought of preserving citrus – What a great idea! Need to find a pick-your-own orange grove when they’re in season and come back to this recipe!!

    • k.m. says:

      I’ve been to Florida a few times but no one ever told me there were pick your own citrus groves! Obviously I need to go back, and not just for the Harry Potter theme park. To pick and eat a grapefruit right off the tree, too awesome for words.

      Hope you have fun making these, they’re really versatile (well, the lemons moreso than the oranges, admittedly) and add such a nice flavor to so many dishes.

  • mmmmm…this looks delicious!

  • Karen says:

    I made preserved lemons once and loved them. I’m going to have to do them again and also try oranges.

  • sybaritica says:

    Wow… that orange recipe looks terrific

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