For the last several years, one of my mid-winter traditions has been to treat myself to a box of Meyer lemons from an orchard in California. It’s my favorite way to bright dark days and ward off the gloom of January on the east coast.
When the lemons arrive, I make marmalade, jelly, dehydrated citrus slices, curd, and salt preserved lemons. It’s a joy to spend those hours squirreling away all the different lemon preserves, knowing that it will be another year before I make them again.
In a typical year, I have no problem using up the things I’ve made from my box of Meyer lemons. This time though, I just didn’t manage to work through 2012’s jar of salt preserved lemons. It got scooted to the very back corner of the fridge and there it stayed, for most of the last 12 months.
I did remember that it was tucked back there. What’s more, there have even been many moments when I knew that a little dose of preserved lemons would go nicely in a dish I was making. I just couldn’t deal with the game of reverse-Tetris that it would have required to put hands on those lemons.
About a week ago, on the hunt for some January dinner inspiration, I pulled my copy of Melissa Clark’s book, Cook This Now, down off the shelf. While leafing through, I spotted an absolutely brilliant idea. She suggests plucking the seeds out of a preserved lemon and then running it through a blender, in order to make an easy-to-use pulp.
Instead of having a giant jar of inaccessible lemons, I could have a very accessible (smaller) jar of preserved lemon puree. This was an idea I could get behind.
Once managed to unearth the jar of lemons from behind the maple syrup, I was in business. I pulled the seeds from half my stash and plopped them into the blender. It took less than a minute in the Vitamix to work them into a very sunny paste. Now, whenever I want to add that funky, tangy, salty, tart preserved lemon flavor to a dish, all I have to do is dip a clean spoon into a jar that now lives on the door of the fridge. Preserved lemons, redeemed!
Melissa Clark recommends that you cover the puree with a generous layer of olive oil, to keep it from spoiling. A very sensible idea.
The best thing about blending the lemons is that once you’ve scraped what you can out of the blender pitcher, you’re already halfway to a great salad dressing. Because it’s inevitable that you won’t be able to get every last bit out of the blender. Instead of surrendering and cleaning it out in the sink, add a little water, honey, and freshly ground pepper. Put the pitcher back on the blender base, run the motor on low and drizzle in a little olive oil. As soon as it develops a thick consistency, you’re done.
The finished dressing is creamy and tart, but without the throat-catching acidity that a vinegar-based dressing can have. I made a not-so-seasonal salad of halved grape tomatoes and avocado, covered it with my blender dressing and heaped it on a pile of torn lettuce. It made for a really great weekday lunch.
If you have a stash of preserved lemons tucked away in your fridge, how are you using them?