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September preserve: preserved lemons

September preserve: preserved lemons

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Bottle lemons for a tangy addition to tagines and roast meat.

It was a ten-year stint living in Europe that taught Kitchen By Mike chef and co-owner Mike McEnearney all about seasonality. “In Europe, the seasons are very pronounced,” he says. “I found it fascinating and cooked heavily with the seasons there. We all should be honouring that.”

At his Sydney café, preserves play a central role both in dishes and as jarred items to take home. “We try to serve them on a daily basis,” says McEnearney. It might be a morning bacon butty with homemade tomato ketchup, or a lunch of pork belly with piccalilli or quince relish.

Use the best of this month’s citrus to create McEnearney’s preserved lemons, an easy to make and versatile ingredient – try them in a tagine or finely sliced over roast lamb. “It’s almost a piece of history in your cupboard you made last year,” says McEnearney of bottling the season’s harvest.

Kitchen By Mike’s Preserved Lemons

Makes three 500ml jars

  • 12 unwaxed lemons
  • 240g fine salt
  • 2 teaspoons nigella seeds
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 300ml lemon juice

If using waxed lemons, wash the lemons very well to remove any wax from the skin. 

Combine the salt, nigella seeds, saffron and put aside.

Boil a large pot full of water and submerge the lemons. Simmer with a weight on top to hold them below the surface for 10 minutes to soften them.

Remove the lemons from the water and allow to cool.

Cut the lemons into quarters and toss them through the salt mix so they are heavily coated.

Pack the lemons tightly into sterilized jars and cover with the remaining salt mix. Top up the jars with the lemon juice so the jar is absolutely full. 

Place the lid on securely and keep the jars  in a dark place for minimum three months before using them. This will allow time for the lemon skins to become cured.

Once the jar has been opened, store the preserved in the fridge. The preserved lemons will keep for up to a year in the fridge, with their flavour intensifying over time.