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Posts Tagged ‘preserved foods’

Topic: Foods past and present 

Preserved Lemons

It’s almost a month since I set out to recreate preserved lemons to use in my favorite Moroccan recipes. If you’ve ever bought preserved lemons you know just how pricey they are and how little you get in return. I wanted to make chicken with preserved lemons and olives in my new tagine so I paid just around nine dollars for two lemons to create my dish-never again.

It takes a bit of time to make and around a month to sit and marinate in the brine but for about six dollars I now have a quart jar with 10 lemons in it. There is just something magical about creating foods like this and the fact that lemons, are an important staple of Moroccan cuisine and have been such for a long time only enhances the pleasure for me.

According to Food Timeline and other sources I have checked the exact origin of lemons is unknown. They belong to the Citrus family of trees and probably came from northern India.

To quote the Oxford Companion to Food, by Alan Davidson, 1999:

“”Lemon The fruit of Citrus medica, a tree whose original home may have been in the north of India. It only reached the Mediterranean towards the end of the 1st century AD, whemn the Romans discovered a direct sea route from the sourthern end of the Red Sea to India. Tolkowsky…adduces complex arguments in favour of this view (as against the earlier view that the lemon did not arrive until the 10th century), and refers to frescos found at Pompeii (and therefore prior to AD 70) which show what he regards as indisputably lemons; also a mosaic pavement probably from Tusculum…of about 100 AD in which a lemon is shown with an orange and a citron. Thus the fruit which can reasonably be regarded as the most important for European cookery was a comparatively late arrival. Nor was its use in cookery, as an acid element, appreciated at once. Nor, indeed, was there a Latin word for lemon. It seems likely that in classical Rome the fruit was treated as a curiosity and a decoration, and that lemon trees were not grown in Italy until later. The Arabs seem to have been largely responsible for the spread of lemon cultivation in the Mediterranean region…Arab traders also spread the lemon eastward to China…During the Middle Ages lemons were rare and expensive in N. Europe, and available only to the rich…Lemons reached the New World…in 1493, when Columbus, on his second voyage, established a settlement on Haiti.”

According to History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, 1992:

“”The lemon…owes its name entirely to the botanists, for it was unknown to classical writers. However, it was widely used from the Middle Ages onwards. It was regarded as an essential in the seventeenth century…Originally from the foothills of the Kashmir, the lemon did not reach China…until around 1900BC. In China, it was given the name limung, which it retained almost unchanged when it moved on to Persia and Media. From the tenth century AD onwards the Arabs, who called it li mum…took it all around the Mediterranean basin, eastwards to Greece by way of Constantinople, westwards to Spain by way of Maghreb and Fezzan. The Spanish and Russians retained the name limon, which becomes lemon in English…”

So much for a bit of history, lemons have been around for quite a long time and are a staple in many dishes.

Preserved lemons are nothing if not easy. All you need are the lemons, coarse sea salt and a sterilized container (preferably glass).

I used a quart mason jar, which holds 10 small lemons.

This recipe for preserved lemons (known in Morocco as l’hamd mrakad), I adapted from a recipe in Modern Moroccan by Ghillie

Basan.

Preserved Lemon Recipe

10 small lemons

5 large lemons-juiced

5-10 tbsp coarse sea salt

1-quart mason jar-sterilized

1 small baby teaspoon is handy if you have one otherwise the smallest spoon you have.

Wash and dry the small lemons. Cut a thin slice from the top of each lemon and several vertical cuts three-quarters of the way through the fruit, making sure not to cut all the way through.

Stuff each lemon with plenty of salt (here’s where the small spoon comes in handy). Pack the lemons into the quart jar so they are squashed together.

Leave the lemons for 3-4 days to allow the skins to soften, and then press them down again.

Wash and juice the large lemons and pour enough of the juice into the jar to cover the salted lemons completely.

Store the lemons for at least 1 month before using. Simply rinse off the salt and use according to the recipe.

Note: When I first put the lemons in my quart jar only 6 would fit, but after a day or so I was able to put in 4 additional. Try that before you put in the juice if you have the same situation.

Original Article

By Joanna Linsley-Poe

AncientFoods April 21,2010

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