We have an orange tree, a lemon tree, a grapefruit tree (recently discovered) and a fig tree on our property. This gives this New Englander, who until only a few months ago had never seen a fresh lemon or orange without a price sticker on it, sheer joy on a daily basis.
The orange tree is producing big, fat ripe Navel oranges that taste sweeter than any I’ve eaten. The scent is most captivating – orange, yes, but a much deeper, darker scent of orange that dissipates quickly once the fruit has been picked. They’re ripe now, ready for breakfast juice. The rinds we’ve been saving and tonight Q (my bride of 22 years as of last night, thankyouverymuch) prepared a batch of Candied Orange Peel.
But for every ripe orange we have, we have several dozen ripe lemons. Enough so that my Dad and I had to build a support to prevent one of the branches from cracking under the weight. Earlier this week, I picked enough lemons to do my first batch of preserved lemons, which now sits on the hearth of my fireplace, bright yellow against the black background. Below are the recipes for both.
Today was harvest day. I will be freezing a life-time supply of lemon juice, and will most likely be preserving more, but consider this your official invitation to send me your, your Mom’s, your Grandma’s favorite lemon recipe. As you can see here, we have plenty to go around.
There are many recipes for preserved lemons. This one is Moroccan, and so has a few more ingredients than others your might find. I got it from FoodNetwork.
Salted Preserved Lemons
Fennel Seeds, whole
Coriander Seeds, whole
Sea Salt (Not table salt)
Big, fat ripe Lemons
Combine all the spices and sea salt in a bowl. Stand the lemons on end and cut across and down, almost to the base, but so the lemon quarters stay together. Gently, push the salt mixture into the segments then pack the lemons as tightly as possible into an airtight jar. The less space there is between the lemons the more attractive it will look and you won’t need to use as much salt. Cover tightly and set the jar aside for about a month. That’s it…they should last about 2 years.
The peel is the edible part. Use it as a seasoning for such things as rice and couscous. It’s also good used to season stews and soups. If you’re into parchment (en papillote) cooking, sprinkle this on top of chicken or fish and bake it in the oven.
Candied Orange Peel
1C Orange peel from ripe orange, almost all pith removed, cut into thin slices no more than 2.5″ long
1C Sugar, divided use
Put the orange peel into a 2-3 quart saucepan. Just cover with water. Bring the water to a simmer, hold it at a simmer for 10 minutes, drain in a colander. Repeat this process at least three times. If, for some reason, the type of oranges you’re using have a particularly strong flavor, you may want to repeat this step 5 times.
While the oranges are draining in the colander, add 1/2C of the sugar and water to the pot. Bring to a simmer and stir until you’re sure all the sugar has dissolved. Add the orange peel, stirring to coat evenly. Hold this at low simmer until the resulting syrup is very thick and almost all the liquid has been absorbed. This will take more than an hour.
Spread the remaining 1/4C of the remaining sugar out on a sheet of parchment paper. Very carefully spread the orange peel out onto the parchment paper in one layer, avoiding as much as possible any overlapping. Dust with the rest of the sugar. Allow to cool completely.
When cool, gently pull it apart into separate pieces which can then be stored in a ziplock-type bag in the refrigerator. If you like, melt some good quality dark chocolate in a double boiler and dip one end of each peel into the chocolate, setting it on a clean piece of parchment to dry.
Kent McDonald is a Certified Personal Chef, living and working in Phoenix, AZ. (c) All Rights Reserved, 2009