Cooking is relaxing for me, as it is for so many, and jam-making has always done the trick. The patience required to make strawberry jam is like a breathing exercise in yoga–you calm down, focus, and soon enough you’re left feeling less stressed-out and a lot less tense. But recently, when I wanted to chill out over a bubbling pan of fruit and sugar, I couldn’t bring myself to do it to myself. Or to my roommate. After all, jam needs heat, and my kitchen rests at a way-above-comfortable hot.
The solution: Preserved Lemons. A staple in Moroccan flavor profiles, lemons get packed in salt, and develop a rich, interesting (and versatile) flavor. You’ll find them in tagines, but you can also add a bit of the lemon rind to pesto for a deeper flavor, or chop it up in a pasta dish or grain salad.
But to keep on relaxing, try adding a bit of the brine to a cocktail for a surprising addition of salt.
Meyer lemons, enough to fill up jar
Fresh squeezed lemon juice
Optional: Bay leaf, juniper seeds, cloves, cinnamon stick
1 1/2 oz. gin
1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. preserved lemon brine
1 oz. simple syrup
Preserved lemon rind
1. Rinse and scrub the rind to remove any wax or dirt. Cut off the stem ends, and leave the other end intact. From the cut end, make two cuts, as if you were quartering the lemon, but don't cut all the way, so that the lemon is still intact on one end.
2. Pour a small layer of salt in the sanitized jar, once dry, just to cover. Take a lemon and gently pull apart the 'quarters,' and pack as much salt as you can in the cuts. Put the lemon in the jar, add some salt on top, and repeat with as many lemons as will fit. Where there are large gaps, pour in a little extra salt, although don't worry about them too much. Optionally, add a bay leaf, juniper seeds, cloves, a cinnamon stick, or cardamom seeds. Pour in the lemon juice just to the top of the lemons. Put the sanitized lid on, and store for two days, shaking the jar every day.
3. If there's space at the top of the jar, add more lemon juice, and top with a thin layer of olive oil. Let sit for another two weeks. To use, rinse under water and add to stews, soups, and sauces.
Preserved Lemon Tom Collins:
1. Combine the first four ingredients with ice cubes and stir.
2. Top with club soda. Garnish with a preserved lemon rind.