I have been having some very good dreams recently about those sweetbreads with preserved lemon I ate a couple of weeks ago at Moro. Although sweetbreads are pretty hard to find round here, Moroccan preserved lemons are not – you can buy Belazu’s very good lemons at the supermarket, or make your own. I chose to make my own, because making preserves gives me a self-righteous glow and something nice to display in the kitchen.
This is a really easy preserve to make, largely because it involves no cooking. The lemons are preserved in salt and their own tart juices, with spices and herbs tucked in between. Once ready, the rinsed lemons’ skins can be used as a condiment, and their pulp and juice as a seasoning. To fill a sterilised 1.5 litre jar, you’ll need:
About 15 unwaxed lemons (buy a few extra in case you need the juice)
500g coarse salt
2 bay leaves
3 cardamom pods
10 coriander seeds
3 dried chillies
1 cinnamon stick
Begin by making a 2 cm layer of salt at the bottom of the jar, and dropping a couple of the whole spices in it. Take a lemon and cut the top and the bottom off. Make as if you are going to cut the lemon in half from top to bottom, but don’t cut through the last 1 cm of flesh and skin. Turn the lemon upside down and make another cut from top to bottom, as if you were going to quarter the fruit, again not cutting all the way through. You’ll end up with a lemon with two top-to-bottom slits in it. Holding the fruit above the neck of the jar, stuff each slit with as much salt as you can fit in, then drop it into the jar, pushing it firmly into a corner.
Continue filling your lemons with salt and packing them firmly into the jar, sprinkling salt and spices between them as you go. You’ll notice that the juice from the squashed lemons will begin to cover the fruits as you work. When you have packed as many lemons into the jar as will fit, squeeze over fresh lemon juice until the top lemon is at least 1 cm deep in the preserving liquid.
Put the lid on tightly and leave the lemons in a warm place (the kitchen worksurface will do just fine) for six weeks, shaking the jar gently every day to mix the ingredients. The lemons, once ready, do not need to be refrigerated, and will keep indefinitely – if, once you start using them, the liquid no longer covers all the lemons, just add more salt and lemon juice.