... Make something wonderful from them!
It's probably no secret to anyone who knows me well that for the most part I can take or leave chocolate. But I will never leave a lemon-anything untouched! So, when my friend Barb suggested a day making preserved lemons, followed by a lemon-themed lunch, how quickly do you think I answered "I'm in!"
So, on a relatively gloomy late March day that was trying (with mixed degrees of success) to be spring, friend Kate and I headed to Barb's for an afternoon of food, fun and great conversation.
When I walked in, this was my first sight -- a gorgeous tables where springtime yellow and (of course) lemons took centerstage.
Our party favors? Well, they started with Lemonhead candies!
And, those lemon covers on the chairs were party favor number two -- darling aprons!
After munching on some snacks, including a delicious dip made with preserved lemons, dill pickle and bacon, we got to work.
I'll walk you through this but if you're really into making these (and I hope you are because it's fun and simple!) you might want to use the recipe Barb sent along (which I'll link to below). To begin with, you need pint jars, about five lemons per jar, peppercorns, bay leaves and boatloads of kosher salt.
Cut off the ends of the lemons so they can stand and slice almost to the bottom in quarters (if they break apart, no worries, which is a good thing, because many of mine did!)
Put about a tablespoon of Kosher salt and five peppercorns or so in the bottom of your jar.
In a bowl filled with A LOT of Kosher sale, thoroughly coat the lemons with salt. Don't brush any off!
Then start cramming them into the jar. And when I say "cram," I mean it. Pound them down with a spoon or muddler. You want juice coming out of those!
When the jar is about half full, put in another teaspoon of salt and continue filling. When you absolutely can't stuff in one more quarter, add another teaspoon of salt and more peppercorns. If you must add lemon juice, do it here to fill to the top. Use straight-from-the-lemon juice, no mixing with water.
Seal tightly. And repeat till you have used all your lemons!
Set the jarred lemons aside and once a week for four weeks, open them, run a knife (a regular dinner knife is fine) down the sides to release air bubbles, reseal and TURN OVER. Repeat.
In four weeks they are done! Super salty and tart! (You can rinse if you wish.) You can dice up the peel to include in salad dressings, drinks (I'll tell you about ours in a minute), pasta, as part of a sauce or topping for fish or certain meats, or in a number of other ways. Barb's cousin used the brine she she sauteed shrimp. (Here's the online recipe -- slightly different but close.)
Party Favor Number Three: A roll of herb butter -- diced preserved lemons and parsley mixed with butter, frozen into a log! Fabulous!
So, let's move onto the food...
As I mentioned, Barb made the lemon/bacon/dill pickle dip (sorry, I don't have the recipe), which we enjoyed with a tasty drink. At the bottom of the glass put pieces (maybe half spoonful) of the tart preserved lemon. Add lemon juice and tonic water (and lots of ice!). It's the ultimate lemonade with no sugar (if you use sugar free tonic water). And for a later-in-the-day cocktail, gin or vodka would be perfect!
Next we enjoyed steamed broccoli with pats of the tart lemon butter. It needed nothing more!
Barb's pasta dish was a Martha Stewart recipe. The only change she made was using 1 stick of butter instead of the olive oil. Believe me, I've had a lot of fabulous pasta in my time. This goes to the head of the class.
For dessert, she had us making our own lemon cream puffs. To the already-baked puffs, we added lemon curd, vanilla pudding and whipped cream.
I'm not sure how pretty they looked -- but oh, they tasted fabulous!
Needless to say, we ate very well indeed, and left with wonderful preserved lemons that we'll tend to for the next month until we can use them (along with our fabulous parting gifts!)
But best of all was sharing an afternoon in the company of friends. There was loads of laughter, great discussion (and not just fluffy stuff but issues, too!) and that sense of joy that comes when one spends time with those you truly enjoy and feel grateful to have in your life.
Can it get better than that? No, I didn't think so.