Tag Archives: Preserves

PRESERVED LEMONS

This week there was an article by Richard Cornish in his regular column: Brain food with Richard Cornish (Everything you need to know about…preserved lemon).  The Age 20/7/20210.

I made a jar of preserved lemons recently to take to Adelaide for when and if I’m able to visit  my son . My daughter and he meet for lunch now and again and swap produce and recipes. He lives in an Asian neighbourhood, so he brings her Asian produce. She is in an African and Middle Eastern neighbourhood and she brought him some preserved lemons. He told me how much he was enjoying them. So I reminded him that I have been preserving lemons for years and he asked me to make him some and bring them over when we come to SA. I have them packed in a jar ready for when we can travel.

This morning I sent him a copy of Richard Cornish’s article and i thought that I would also find him a simple recipe from the web, mail him the link – it’s the easiest way to send recipes these days. My son and friends expected me to have a recipe on my blog, but with so many recipes  for preserved lemons on the web I have never bothered.

I was very surprised by the variations and how complicated the recipes seem on the web.

Making preserved lemons is the simplest thing! The only ingredients you need are lemons, salt and boiled water. You need to pack the lemons in a sterilized jar and leave them in a cupboard to mature.

So many recipes on the web  add embellishments like cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, star anise, vanilla pods or other spices and herbs. Although a  very popular recipe  by Stephanie Alexander suggests embellishments, I prefer to preserve them plain. This allows me more flexibility, more opportunities to add them to different cuisines. For example, if I’m making an Italian lemon  or  a seafood risotto and wish to enhance the recipe with a little preserved lemon, I would rather not have the risotto taste of various spices. And, by the way, they are not an Italian ingredient!

I have added some of the preserving juice when I have pickled olives. A reader once told me that he adds some when he is stewing rhubarb, I have added some when baking quince. They are also great in salads made with grains or pulses, beetroots, Middle Eastern dishes, dressed olives… experiment!

I have read in various publications that in Morocco where preserved lemons are very common,  that they do not traditionally add embellishments such as cinnamon, bay leaves or other spices and herbs. I have been to Tunisia and this seemed to be the same there.

I then started thinking when and why I had begun to make and use preserved lemons in the first place, and I remembered!

I found the dusty recipe book by Robert Carrier on one of my shelves, together with some other very dusty recipe books that I haven’t opened for years. There was the recipe for preserved lemons and the food that inspired me to make them.

The book was published in 1987! How time flies!

Claudia Roden also has recipes- for preserved lemons – same as Carrier, lemons and salt, no spices.

Here is a simplified version or the recipe:

You will need a large jar with a wide neck, the size of the jar to accommodate the number of lemons you intend to use. Keep in mind that the lemons will be compressed in the jar.

When I make a large jar, I use about 10 -14 lemons.

The jar I made for my son has 5 lemons + the juice of 1 more lemon.

I use all-natural rock salt, from evaporated sea water.

Wash and dry the lemons. Partially cut through them from top to bottom to make four attached wedges. Fill the crevices of the cut lemons with a rough tablespoon of salt.

Squeeze the salted lemons shut and pack them into the jar. Wedge them in as tightly as possible so they can’t move around. Some juice will be released in the process. When the jar is as full as it can be with tightly packed lemons, add a little more salt to the top of the jar. All the lemons need to be fully submerged in liquid, so top them off with some more lemon juice and some boiled water. I always add  a layer of extra virgin olive oil on top. I do this with all my preserves to keep the mould out.

Close the jar and place in a cupboard to cure for at least two months. My large jar has lemons in it that were made last year. They become darker, softer in texture and more mellow and intense in flavour the  longer they sit undisturbed.

Once opened, you can store the lemons in the fridge. The large jar does not fit in my fridge and it is stored in a cupboard. You may notice that I have added some netting and weight on top to keep the remaining lemons submerged.

Richard Cornish’s article:

Subject: The The Age Digital Edition: Everything you need to know about… preserved lemon
This article is from the July 20 issue of The Age Digital Edition. To subscribe, visit “https://www.theage.com.au“.

What is it?

Preserved lemons are ripe lemons transformed through lactic acid fermentation and the action of salt into aromatic, sharp and salty slices of citrus. Washed, unblemished lemons are trimmed, sliced into quarters or eighths depending on their size, and covered with salt. They are packed tightly in jars and squashed to release juice. More juice is added to ensure the lemons are covered. The jars are closed and kept at room temperature for several days to help kickstart lactic acid fermentation. Meanwhile, the sea salt draws liquid from the lemon and helps create an environment in which pectin from the rind and pith thickens the liquid. Most commonly associated with North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, the art of pickling lemons was not unknown to 17thcentury Britons. Lemons are pickled for traditional medicine and culinary uses in China and Vietnam.

Why do we love it?

Perhaps because they are so easy to make using simple recipes and equipment. A jar of homemade preserved lemons also makes a great gift. With their bright colour, sweet and salty tang, and smooth citrus aroma, they give dishes a burst of summer, even in the depths of winter. Preserved lemons will last for years, the rind becoming softer and softer and flavours mellowing.

Who uses it?

In his new book, All Day Baking, baker and author Michael James has a recipe for kangaroo, preserved lemon, prune and sweet potato pie. He also says the pulp and skin are useful in the kitchen, from salads and sauces to braises and mayonnaise. In the second edition of The Cook’s Companion (the one with the striped cover), Stephanie Alexander presents a beautiful recipe for Moroccan-inspired chicken, with chickpeas, swedes, pumpkin, saffron and cumin slowly cooked to make a rich gravy that is finished with coriander and pieces of preserved lemon.

How do you use it?

With respect. Preserved lemons are potent and can easily overpower a dish. Think of them as two parts – the pieces of lemon and the syrup they are in. Use the lemon rind as culinary punctuation, where small morsels can add colour, an acidic tang and a nice whack of salt. Preserved lemons love Middle Eastern spices such as cumin, saffron and coriander seed, and legumes such as chickpeas and lentils. Expect to use them in tagines, Middle Eastern stews, grilled and stewed lamb and chicken, and innovative dishes such as cracked wheat, prawn and lemon salad. You can add the syrup to dishes as a seasoning or brush over meats as they grill.

Where do you get it?

With lemons in season, you can try making your own. Or look for preserved lemons at farmers’ markets and food stores. Supermarkets carry good brands such as Raw Materials Preserved Lemons or buy Arabian Nights lemons preserved in Morocco from Essential Ingredient.

Suggest an ingredient via email to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or tweet to @foodcornish.

MOSTARDA and COTOGNATA – Sweets in Moulds

When I was a child growing up in Trieste at a particular time of the year my father and I would go to the railway station and collect a parcel, sent by relatives in Ragusa, Sicily. In it were irregular, round and oval shapes of cotognata and mostarda – not something that could be found in Trieste.

Many are familiar with cotognata, quince paste that in Australia seems to have become very common on cheese platters. I have never eaten it with cheese in Sicily. Cotognata it is a sweet that has a relatively long shelf life and is traditionally kept for those times when unexpected visitors arrive. One cannot make a brutta figura and have nothing available at home to offer to guests.

A few of you may be familiar with mostarda but perhaps what you are thinking of is mostarda of Cremona, mustard fruits in mustard oil and sugar and traditionally served with bollito misto di carne (a variety of boiled meats). Cremona is not in Sicily. Or you may have known mostarda as an ingredient for pumpkin tortelli (large tortellini – pasta pillows, similar to ravioli). This mostarda is generally made with quince.

The Sicilian mostarda is similar and eaten in the same way as cotognata but it is made with grape must, wood ash, citrus zest and cornstarch. Some add almonds or pine nuts and raisins (as in the recipe by the goddess of all Sicilian recipes, Mary Taylor Simeti).

Others add cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cloves.

mostardaDSC_0098_2-300x201

 

The ingredients are cooked until the must becomes thick, almost solid. The mostarda is then poured into these type of moulds and dried in the sun. Like cotognata it is generally spread with granulated sugar when inverted and exposed again to the sun until they are completely dry.

Now to the moulds (also molds, depending where you come from). These belonged to my great grandmother and my brother has them hanging on his wall in the kitchen. I have a few, fond memories every time I see them. The moulds are called formelle.

MA2SBAE8REVW

PISCI ALL’ AGGHIATA – PESCE ALL’AGLIATA (Soused fish with vinegar, garlic and bay)

In the period before Christmas my fishmonger at the Queen Victoria Market seemed to be stocking a large quantity of what I call festive fish – mainly lobsters (called crayfish incorrectly), bugs, prawns, scallops and sashimi grade tuna – not the type of fish that I am interested in purchasing.

He always seems to have sardines, and squid but there seem to be no room in his display cabinet or fridge for these. He had run out of the small supply of King George whiting and flathead so I walked away with Snapper. I felt uncomfortable with this choice because I knew that although the Department of Primary Industries in Victoria (Fisheries) lists snapper as a sustainable species, in Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide (AMCS) it is considered to be overfished and environmentally limited in VIC.And that is just the issue; it can be relatively difficult to find information about making ethical choices and to purchase sustainable seafood.

This being the first week in January I was even more disappointed to find large supplies of swordfish, marlin and shark (marketed as flake, particularly in Victoria). He also had blue grenadier, blue warehou, snapper again, all classified as not sustainable by AMCS.

However he did have trevally a relative cheaper and tasty fish that is also sustainable. It is a strong tasting fish and a very suitable choice for making Pisci All’ Agghiata – soused fish with complimentary strong flavours – vinegar, garlic and bay. Aglio is the Italian word for garlic (agghiu in Sicilian), so it is easy to guess what ingredient is the defined flavour.

I had some Cippolata (a thick sauce made with onions, sugar and vinegar) in my fridge that I had previously made for another dish and presenting this as an accompaniment seemed perfect.

PISCI ALL’ AGGHIATA
INGREDIENTS
fish, 1-3kg
garlic, cloves, 6-10, cut into halves
bay leaves,
white wine vinegar, ¾ cup
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
flour to coat the fish (optional)
PROCESSES
Coat the fish lightly in flour with little salt (optional and traditional).
Fry the fish in hot extra virgin olive oil, until all the sides are golden. Remove the fish and set aside.  Use the same oil or replace it (if you have coated the fish with flour). Heat the oil.
Add the garlic and when it becomes golden add the vinegar and evaporate for a few minutes.
Place the fish in a bowl deep enough to hold the fish and vinegar marinade.
Intersperse the fish with fresh bay leaves.
Pour the marinade over the fish. Cool it, cover and let the fish rest for several hours before serving at room temperature (or store in the fridge until ready to serve, and remove it from the fridge about an hour beforehand).
 
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) (read more)

Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide Online – the first online sustainability guide in Australia. Developed in response to growing public concerns about the state of our seas, it is designed to help you make informed seafood choices and play a part in swelling the tide for sustainable seafood. Visit www.sustainableseafood.org.au to learn more about sustainable seafood and buy your copy of the guide today.

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CARCIOFINI SOTT’ OLIO (Preserved artichokes in oil)

If you live in the Southern hemisphere (as I do in Melbourne, Australia,) you may have noticed small artichokes for sale. Carciofi  is the word for the normal sized artichokes and carciofini are the small ones. Carciofini are also the baby artichokes that never develop to full size and grow at the end of the plant’s growing season (photo of carciofi spinosi taken at Palermo Market)

These small artichokes (that never develop to full size) are considered too small to cook and are customarily preserved in oil and eaten in the non-artichoke season. I realize that this may be difficult for some of us to imagine because we appear to be able to purchase artichokes, asparagus and tomatoes all year round in Australia, but being Italian and having been brought up with respecting and celebrating local, seasonal produce, I go without. (I ask myself how far away some of this produce is coming from and how long ago was it picked.)

The carciofini are first poached and then preserved under oil. Usually I only preserve very small quantities (they get eaten very quickly), but for each kilo of artichokes,

INGREDIENTS
small  artichokes, 1 kilo
acidulated water – 2 lemons
For the poaching liquid
I use 4 cups of white wine vinegar, a cup of white wine and about one teaspoon of salt for the poaching liquid. They need to poach in sufficient liquid otherwise the bitter taste becomes concentrated and they could be unpleasant.
For the oil mixture:
Sufficient extra virgin oil to cover the artichokes and
1 tablespoon of whole black pepper corns, 5 bay leaves and about a tablespoon of dry oregano.
PROCESSES
Use artichokes that look closed and firm (when the leaves start to open, the choke has started to develop and this can happen even to small artichokes if they have been left on the plant too long).
Strip back the leaves (you just want the tender heart) and kept them whole. Soak them in the water and lemon to stop them from browning.
Drain the artichokes and leave them upside down while you make up the vinegar/wine mixture. Use a stainless steel saucepan with a lid (to cover the artichokes as they cook).
Place the artichokes in the boiling mixture, cover and poach them gently in the mixture until cooked but not soft – still firm in the centre, but the outer leaves should have softened. The time for cooking varies (my last batch took 12 minutes).
Drain them of as much vinegar as possible and when cool pack them carefully into sterilised glass jars, pressing them down gently and trying to prevent as many gaps as possible. (Rather than a large jar I use smaller sized jars so as to minimise possible spoilage once opened).
Add flavours and cover with oil. To allow any trapped air to escape leave them for about 3 hours before sealing. During the resting time the level of the oil may be reduced, top with more oil and ensure they are well covered (some use an inverted small saucer on top as a weight to help keep the artichokes submerged but make sure that you sterilise the saucer).
Seal the jars and allow them to steep in the oil for at least 10 days before you eat them. Because I make small quantities and live in an apartment with little storage space, I keep them in my fridge, but they can be stored in a cool, dark place for about 6 months.

 

I never add fresh herbs or garlic to any preserves, as these are likely to go off, release gas and spoil the whole preserve.

When ready to use, remove the quantity of artichokes from the jar, drain them of some of the oil, add garlic slices and finely chopped parsley and a dash of lemon juice.

After each jar is opened, it is best to use the artichokes quickly. Add extra oil to the remaining artichokes to keep the contents submerged.I always keep opened jars in the fridge.