culinary nostalgia and reliving the season:
When I was small, my father sang to me the song “Time in a Bottle.” It was a 1970‘s hit by Jim Croce lamenting about preserving the days with a loved one. He wanted to capture the soon-to-be lost time in a bottle. Humans like things to stay as they are and when the moments are gone, we like to fondly think about the way things were. We are nostalgic. I thought of this song this week (which I will explain later) but the concept of preserving the moment naturally made me think of preserving food. Culinary nostalgia. This thought inspired this week’s simple pleasure: preserved Meyer lemons.
Preserving food for later use is nostalgic (and practical). Taking products in their prime and holding them at their season’s best allows us to enjoy the flavors of one season at a later time.
In Los Angeles, my daughters and I have had an abundance of Eureka and Meyer lemons. Meyer lemons are my favorite lemon. They are juicer than Eureka lemons, with thinner skins and Meyer lemons are sweeter (they are believed to be a cross between a lemon and an orange or tangerine). Meyer lemons are wonderful in anything you would use an Eureka lemon for, but I particularly love them in desserts: lemon-curd, in a fresh lemon tart, in a citrus cheesecake, lemon cake or flan. Lemon juice is wonderful served hot with honey to sooth sore throats in the winter, or, frozen to make lemonade in the later warmer months. I was still left with an abundance so I decided to preserve them with salt.
Preserving lemons takes 10 minutes. Add salt, fresh lemon juice, and a few spices to cut lemons and place them in a jar. In 4-6 weeks time the salt and acid will turn the lemon rinds to a slightly sweet/slightly tangy treat. You can eat the flesh as well but it is a little bitter.
Preserved lemons are used frequently in Moroccan cuisine. In France you find them more prevalently used in the south than other regions. I like to julienne the rinds and add them to various snacks or cut into wedges and add them to rice dishes or serve with meats and kebabs.
Here are few examples of how to use preserved lemons:
- julienned and added to olives (particularly oil-cured);
- julienned and added roasted garlic cloves;
- added to couscous;
- in tagines (with chicken and Marquez sausage);
- in rice dishes; and/or
- served as a condiment with roasted lamb chops, chicken, or rack of lamb.
Yesterday, I watched my eldest daughter yesterday open a jar of jam. Her hand now covers the top of the jar. It seems only yesterday I helped her tiny fingers struggle to hold the same size jam jar upright. I thought of my father singing that song to me. His voice, softened with time, remains soothing and pitch-perfect. Preserving time in a bottle. I now know what he meant when he sang that song. If only time could be preserved as easily and successfully as lemons.
et bon appétit !