This was a fantastic project, especially since I had never heard of Moroccan lemons or knew anything of how to make them. Our downstairs neighbor suggested over dinner that we make them and I immediately thought of my mother-in-law, Betsy, and her Meyer lemon tree. Betsy packed up a box of Meyer lemons, limequats and tangerines for us to have our way with and suggested using the limequats since she has so many (and thus receive a jar of our efforts in return).
Note that two of the three varieties of limequat are named after Florida towns near my own hometown.
Also note that Betsy is a master gardener, runs her kitchen-of-projects with style and grace, and gifts me amazingly useful kitchen tools.
A quick search on epicurious pulled up Moroccan-Style Preserved Lemons. I called it good with no further research, the recipe was so simple and straight forward and we had all the ingredients on hand:
(As presented at epicurious.com, originally from Gourmet, 2008)
10 to 12 lemons (2 1/2 to 3 lb)
2/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
a 4- to 6-cup jar with a tight-fitting lid
Blanch 6 lemons in boiling water 5 minutes, then drain. Cut each lemon into 8 wedges and discard seeds. Toss with kosher salt in a bowl, then firmly pack with salt into jar.
Squeeze enough juice from remaining lemons to measure 1 cup. Add enough juice to cover lemons and screw on lid. Let stand at room temperature, shaking jar gently once a day, 5 days. Add oil to lemons and chill, covered.
Cooks’ note: Lemons keep, chilled, 1 year.
We used jars given to us from a Betsy and another friend then followed the gist of the recipe. Instead of 10 – 12 lemons we had 5 large Meyer lemons and 12 small limequats. We reduced the salt by a guessed amount. We cut the limequats into wedges as though they were lemons for the three taller, slender jars. I sliced two Meyer lemons (instead of cutting wedges) to fit the two squat jars. Juice for the whole project came from three Meyer lemons.
Cooking in the kitchen with a friend is a special treat. Jumping into a little preserving project on a Saturday night where neither has done it before is downright thrilling. So much so that we forgot to document the real action of blanching the limequats and slicing. I did document the Meyer lemons, though.
The recipe calls for blanching the lemons prior to slicing, which we did. My neighbor read that blanching lemons prior to squeezing yeilds more juice – we blanched our juice Meyer lemons for about two minutes and they juiced incredibly well. However, we did come up a little short on juice to cover what we packed into the jars. David Lebovitz really presses his Moroccan preserved lemons into their jars, which we haven’t done yet but it should remedy the limequats poking just above the juice line.
I’m not sure exactly how gently we should be shaking our jars of lemons every day but they look great at the close of Day Three. I have some incredibly fancy olive oil I scored from the Fancy Food Show over the summer, we’ll pack the limequats and Meyers down firmly and seal their fate with it on Day Five.