Lemon Confit (aka Moroccan Preserved Lemons)

This is not candied lemon with crystallized sugar, like my ginger confit was not candied ginger, but neither is this soaked in a sugar syrup. This version of confit takes lemons and salt (drowned in all the lemon juice that gets sucked out of the lemons by the salt) and makes you wait, patiently in the true spirit of “confit”. Some people think confit is about cooking in fat or sugar, but really it’s about the awfully long time you need to wait for your meat/vegetable/condiment to be ready for use. Though a friend tells me sugar is quicker (and easier) than salt when it comes to preserving lemons, I chose to cross my fingers and trust David Leibowitz with his method of preserving puckeringly good citrus.

Preserved lemons are important ingredients in a lot of Moroccan and Middle Eastern cooking and they’re something that are

a) hard to find at stores

b) full of preservatives when you do

They’re also SO easy to make (as long as they don’t go moldy, apparently) and last a really long time. Honestly, what’s better than knowing that in the darkest days of winter there’s a bottle of salted sunshine waiting to brighten up your couscou, rice, meat, vegetables or salads?

There’s a woman who offers home-cooked Moroccan dinner parties out of her house in LaSalle. She invited me over for a practice dinner and the heaping platters of food that came from her ovens put Christmas feasts in North America to shame. Well, some Christmas feasts. She had mounds of slow-cooked couscous topped with braised beef with cinnamon,  and saffron-flavoured chicken legs slow-roasted with onions and dried fruit. Icing sugar-topped pastilla pastry with ground meat and vegetables and the ubiquitous mezes/tapas/small plates with some of the best roasted eggplant and hot pepper dips I’ve tried were appetizers that stuck around for the duration of the meal in communal bowls. Having experienced this even once, when I bite into a small piece of my lemon confit, I’ll experience the taste-memory of an entire meal of these exquisite flavours.

The recipe is from David Leibowitz’s blog and he has some suggestions on how to use the lemons. For now, mine are  sitting in my fridge waiting patiently for the requisite one month period pre-use, while I try to have the same patience.

I started mine in two large mason jars, stuffing the lemons barely through the openings, but as they softened from the salt and the pressing down in the first few days, I moved them into just one large mason jar so that I didn’t need to pour over a lot of extra lemon juice and alter the flavour of the lemons that were being confit-ed. I even pressed down every day for the amount of days called for. I am so very much looking forward to seeing if I can get a piece of lemon out of the jar. I’m already dreaming of lemon peel…

Please don’t go moldy, lemons. Please be wrong that they will go moldy, friend.

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