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JAZ

Lemon Confit

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If lemons ever come down in price, I want to make preserved lemons. I was planning to use a recipe by Paula Wolfert (similar to this one), but I figured I'd take a look at some other recipes. I came across a recipe by Eric Ripert for what he calls "lemon confit." The main difference seems to be the amount of salt -- 5 cups, compared with 1/4 cup in the Wolfert recipe --and the addition of sugar. I figured maybe he just used the term "confit" because he's French, but when I searched for "lemon confit" I found a few more recipes. Michael Ruhlman has one on his blog that's very similar to Ripert's (sugar is optional) -- although his calls for curing for 3 months as opposed to Ripert's 2 weeks. Then there's this one from the Washington post, which is yet another method, using olive oil and onions along with salt and sugar.

So now I'm confused. I'm inclined to trust Wolfert's recipe because I know she's familiar with the cuisines that use preserved lemons. Plus I'd rather not use the larger amount of salt if I don't have to, and I'm unclear about what the sugar does. In addition, it sounds from the comments on Ruhlman's blog that a lot of people had problems with his method.

Can anyone shed any light on these recipes? Should I just stick with my original plan?

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I believe that they are all variations on the same theme. Tom Colicchio in Think Like a Chef also calls his version "lemon confit".

The amount of salt in Eric Ripert's version seems off though, with 5 cups for 6 lemons.

I've made Molly Steven's version, which seems very similar to Paula Wolfert's, with great results. You need to wait for at least a couple of weeks but they last for a long time and get better with age.

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Eric Ripert had a recipe for "lemon confit" in "A Return to Cooking" - his first book. In that recipe, it's just salt - no sugar. I've made mine based on that recipe for years now with some minor variations and they come out great... I basically take a big jar, sterilize it and then take lemons and cut them into pieces - maybe 8-10 pieces per lemon - I cut all the way through as opposed to the originial which just slices lengthwise almost all the way down. I usually only use a little at a time, so I figure why not start with smaller pieces? Anyway, I never measure the salt anymore - I just line the bottom of the jar with some salt, then throw in 1 layer of lemon pieces, then cover with salt and repeat. Once in a while, I'll take a muddler or something and press down to make more space so I can really pack them in there. Then I just make sure I leave some space at the top of the jar to cover with salt. In the refrigerator for roughly 3-4 weeks, shaking around every week or so... As time goes on, you'll have more space in the jar, so I add more salt to keep everything covered. After that time, I take it out of the refrigerator and leave it in the cupboard, ready to use. It keeps basically forever unrefrigerated and indeed gets better over time.

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I wonder about the sugar in Ripert's recipe. I wouldn't expect it to hurt the preserved lemons. It does introduce sweetness in the lemons, though, and for many dishes with preserved lemons, you probably wouldn't want that extra sweetness from the get-go. You can always add a little sugar to a dish if it needs it, but if you're automatically adding sugar with another ingredient, you can't get that sweetness out afterwards--you can only modify it. Make sense?

The traditional salted lemons (like Wolfert's recipe) will give you the cleanest lemon flavor. That's the method I prefer. I learned this rule of thumb: 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt per lemon. Also, I always buy some extra lemons for the juice needed to top off the jar.

Depending on my mood, I will layer in some spices: cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, whole cloves, bay leaves, whole allspice. It's something to play around with if you feel like it.

I've been told Meyer lemons make great preserved lemons. I'd like to try that myself this winter.

I've also made this quickie version of preserved lemons, where the lemons are boiled and brined. The lemons are ready in a week. They have good flavor, but not the intensity of flavor of the traditional salted lemons. If you're pressed for time, this method comes in handy.

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/preserved-lemons-10000000600612/

ETA: The Washington Post recipe is more of my idea of a confit. This one is an oil pickle, and a condiment. When I hear "confit" I think of oil, and sometimes sugar. It tastes good right out of the jar. None of these things are true of the traditional salt-cured preserved lemons, which are meant to be combined with other ingredients, and often cooked.

If you see "preserved lemon" in a recipe's ingredients list, it means the salt-cured preserved lemons.

I was reading the comments in Ruhlman's blog. Sometimes too many ideas spoil the broth. Excuse me, the preserved lemons. A traditional recipe like Wolfert's is the most safe and reliable. Lemons are extremely acidic, so they preserve well, and salt is...salt. Use a mason jar (no earthenware jars, which can absorb moisture if they're unsealed), use enough salt and lemon juice, pack those lemons down hard, so that they're packed solid, and you should be OK. I'm wary of sugar or water in the mix--those ingredients can be mold-inducing.


Edited by djyee100 (log)

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Thanks for the advice. I have a question about the jar -- Wolfert says to sterilize it. Will the dishwasher do the job, or should I use boiling water? Ripert and Ruhlman don't say anything about sterilizing -- maybe that's why they use so much salt, thinking it will inhibit mold growth.

An interesting note: In Ruhlman's latest book, he has an updated version that calls for sugar -- half as much sugar as salt (2 lbs. salt to 1 lb. sugar) -- plus a cup of water. A recent discussion of the recipe seems to indicate problems with the lemons not staying submerged. Ruhlman suggests that too much water is the problem, but it seems to me it's just the opposite -- that much salt would make the liquid so dense that almost anything would float in it.

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I didn't sterilized my jars.

I made two batches last june with Menton lemons, with Ms Wolfert's recipe. For the first batch I used extra juice to keep the lemon submerged and every other day I placed the jar upside down and reverting it again (as I read the discussion on the preserved lemon thread). For the second batch I didn't have enough juice and used more salted water and the pickl-it, they sell a glass disk to keep food under brine. I don't know if it was for the fact I used just juice but first batch is so much more intense. I kept covered both jars to avoid sunlight.

Interesting Kenneth, I'll give it a go next year.

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I had a brainstorm a few months ago and ordered a pickle press in which to process my preserved lemons.

I did one batch of lemons and it worked just fine. Rather than stack them partially cut, I cut them all in quarters and got three layers.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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I put my jar through the dishwasher, then let it sit on the counter (right-side up) to air-dry. That has always been sufficient. As I see it, the lemons are not going to be canned or vacuum-sealed, and air will get in there anyway. The extreme acidity and salt of the mixture is your biggest preventative against mold or spoilage.

Sometimes the topmost lemon is not covered entirely by lemon juice. I don't worry about it. It's got acidic, salty brine on it. I upend the jar now and then so the topmost lemon gets a briny bath. You can always discard the topmost lemon if you don't like it.

That sugar business interests me. I went surfing around the web yesterday. Some talk on the web about how the sugar is supposed to sub for some salt, so the lemons don't taste so salty. Since sugar can be a drying agent and preservative, there's some theory behind that. OTOH, I remember how I once made fruit preserves, didn't seal the jars properly, and found myself with moldy jam. When totally dry, I've found sugar to be an excellent preservative--for candied citrus peel for instance. I kept some citrus peel from Thailand for a long time by burying it in dry white sugar. So I'm guessing that when wet, sugar is less stable as a preservative. How wet, I dunno. Adding water to the mix, as Ruhlman does, doesn't reassure me.

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I make a lemon concentrate with no salt, just sugar - well-washed and scrubbed lemons, roughly sliced or in big chunks, layer of lemons, layer of sugar till jar (gallon, large mouth) is full of lemons and extra juice, smash lemons down with something that will fit in the jar. (I have a round potato smasher.)

This is left to sit at room temp for a few days and it begins to ferment just a little. The juice is drawn off and mixed with seltzer for a very refreshing drink.

This was my great grandmother's favorite summer drink - she didn't believe in iced tea - tea was hot or not at all.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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Several months back I finally got curious as to what all the fuss was about and decided to make preserved lemons. I won't be without them again. Of course there's no real substitute for them in Moroccan dishes, but I've used them in other areas too - a little bit in sauteed winter squash (which I do with onions, olive oil, a little orange juice and orange peel, and sometimes a dash of soy sauce) really wakes up the dish. And I've used extra brine in salad dressings in place of salt.

What I've seen is almost every batch comes out a little differently, depending on the kind of lemons and how mature they are. Right now we're getting very young lemons with smooth thin peels. The aroma hasn't quite developed and they aren't as juicy as they'll be down the line. I did make some from them because I was out, but they're not much to write home about them. The best batch for me was from really ripe lemons, but before they had begun to grow too soft. (These "old lemons" are prized here because they give lots of juice, which is fine if you aren't using the peel.)

One warning that Paula Wolfert gives is not to touch the brine with your fingers. I had one batch fall on the floor - no lemons dropped out but I lost a lot of the brine. So I added more salt and fresh lemon juice, and evidently got some finger oils or something into my batch - within a day or two it smelled like lemon-scented solvent. The song from the commercial, "We put the lemon in the Tidee-bowl for you" was going through my head!

I wonder, has anyone ever tried doing this with limes? I've read of one person doing it and not being that impressed, but as limes are as variable as lemons, it seems like it might be worth a try.


"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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I wonder, has anyone ever tried doing this with limes? I've read of one person doing it and not being that impressed, but as limes are as variable as lemons, it seems like it might be worth a try.

yes, I have, and I won't bother again. I found the limes to be just bland and salty not at all having depth of flavor like lemons.

I have also done lemon in both the two common varieties from our grocery produce here in the Seattle area, both the thick skinned not so juicy type and the thinner skinned types that are a bunch juicier. The thick skinned I don't care as much for.

I've been told Meyer lemons make great preserved lemons. I'd like to try that myself this winter.

I really do agree that Meyers lemons are great as preserved lemons. Better, maybe. You'll have to make up your own mind.

I have done them using their own Meyers Lemon juice with salt and with using the plain grocery type lemon juice with the salted Meyers, I vote for lemon juice from the store bought lemons rather than using juice squeezed from Meyers Lemons for being less costly. I can't tell the difference in the finished lemon rind.

I do hope that last run on sentence makes sense.


Robert

Seattle

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I vote for lemon juice from the store bought lemons rather than using juice squeezed from Meyers Lemons for being less costly. I can't tell the difference in the finished lemon rind.

There is some commentary on the web that Meyer lemons are not acidic enough for this preserve, and some people have had problems with mold. The solution is to use the more acidic juice from other types of lemons, like the supermarket lemon (the Eureka or Lisbon), to top off the jar.

As I heard it, the Meyer lemon is not a true lemon, but a sport, a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. That's why it's sweeter and less acidic than other lemons.

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