Waste Not is a collaboration with my friend, Carrie King. The premise is simple: Carrie, a food writer and editor, shares a recipe highlighting at least one particular way that we can curb food waste. I make it at home, take a bunch of pictures, and share it with everyone here.
This is perhaps my favorite kind of recipe: a guideline for something that’s easy to make and delicious to eat, but most importantly, something that makes a whole host of other things taste infinitely better. When dinner looks lackluster, a jar or preserved lemons in the fridge can make it shine. So far we’ve dipped into our jar of preserved lemons for adding to whole wheat pasta with wilted spinach and for making a quick and delicious veggie dip from yogurt. This weekend they’ll be perfect for adding a bright zing to chickpea salad sandwiches.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, but then preserve the rinds!
So, I’ll just start by saying that true preserved lemons take at least 3-4 weeks to make. You start with a bunch of whole lemons, some spices if you want, and through the magic of lacto-fermentation, just like sauerkraut and kimchi, you end up with delicious preserved lemons. They can be stored for a long time, there for the taking whenever you want to gussy up a dish. Rinse them, dice them, skin and all, and you’re good to go! The longer process of making real preserved lemons is worth it, especially to have on hand in the fall and winter months in chillier climes where fresh pops of flavor and color become scarce as the temperatures drop. Not to mention, a jar of preserved lemons looks real pretty on a kitchen shelf.
A mainstay in many North African and Middle Eastern cuisines, they are best known for the tangy pop of flavor they instantly bring to stews like tagines. If you’re interested in making a big batch that will keep for up to a year, I’d direct you to any of Paula Wolfert’s recipes as she is an undisputed expert. But if you’re at all like me—unapologetically into preserving with a little more instant gratification—then this is a quick way to get some of the preserved lemon flavor benefits while also cutting back on everyday food waste.
If you find yourself with two or three or four or five (!) squeezed lemons after making a big batch of lemonade or lemon curd or ceviche or whatever else uses lots of citrus juice, you don’t have to discard the rinds. Simply slice or dice them (discard the seeds) and rub them with a salt/sugar mixture. Put the salted lemon rinds and flesh into the pint jar, along with any last drops of juice. If you let them sit out for a day at room temperature then it will help the process along and then you can shake it up and store the jar in the fridge for the next week or two. The preserved lemons can be added to brighten up stews and braised meats, or chopped into relishes loaded with fresh herbs and capers or olives to top simple grilled fish or chicken or veggies. Or you could mix slices into a grain salad with feta or goat cheese and arugula or spinach. Preserved lemons can become part of a pesto for pasta or to slather on a fancy panini. In other words, anywhere you might otherwise use lemon, you can incorporate a bit of your preserved rinds!
Quick ‘Preserved’ Lemons
4-5 whole or juiced unwaxed organic lemons (or any number will do!)
½ cup kosher salt (if using just 1 or 2 squeezed rinds, you’ll need only a few tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
In a medium bowl, mix together salt, sugar, and peppercorns.
Scrub any whole lemons. Trim any hard stem ends and remove seeds if necessary.
Quarter any whole lemons lengthwise, squeeze any juice into the bowl with salt mixture.
Cut all lemon rinds/flesh into 2-inch pieces.
Transfer chopped lemons to bowl and rub thoroughly with the salt/sugar mixture.
Transfer to a pint jar with a tight lid, scraping all juice and salt into jar. Tightly seal. Let sit at room temp for a day, shake, then store in fridge for up to a week or two.
This is a guideline! The amount of salt/sugar you’ll need depends on factors like how many lemons you’re using, their size, and how juicy they are. The idea is to reduce food waste here, so the same process can also be done with just one already squeezed lemon if that’s all you have! (You could use the loose ratio of 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and 1/2 tbsp sugar per lemon if you’re looking to scale the recipe up or down.) Dice or slice, generously rub with about 2 tablespoons of the salt/sugar combo, pack into a smaller jar with a bit more sugar/salt on the bottom and use within a week or two.
I suggest unwaxed, organic lemons because you are eating the whole rind. Give them a good scrub before using.
Thanks to Carrie King for writing this post and developing the recipe. When Carrie’s not encouraging me in tiny-apartment cooking adventures, she’s a food writer and editor. Her cookbook work includes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner….Life with Missy Robbins and The Chef Next Door with Amanda Freitag. She has contributed to Gather Journal and Life & Thyme and works as recipe editor at Marley Spoon and Dinnerly. Thanks to culinary school and lots of time spent in kitchens, both professional and home, she can cook just about anything, but usually just wants a
few couple few slices of pizza.
For the curious:
Our checked napkin is from Fog Linen.
Our stainless steel bowl is from this set (a tiny apartment kitchen must-have).
My candlestick and pitcher are from Notary Ceramics. James made the candle!
What about you guys? How do you eat your preserved lemons?