While there is something intrinsically logical about experiencing food in season: black velvety berries straight from the side of the road in Sligo in late September, vividly emerald wild garlic from Howth in spring and greedily scoffed Wexford strawberries, eaten straight from the punnet on summer car trips, I have recently been toying with the idea of eating out of season. I am not talking about the gorey world of food miles, or Frankenstein fruit, but experimenting with holding on to a little bit of the season, by preserving its produce. The taste of foods when preserved, whether by conserving, preserving, pickling or smoking, brings a whole new level of depth to the flavours and textures. The flavours somehow become denser, more concentrated, even taking on whole new characteristics. It is no coincidence that winter dishes at my best friend’s Italian home feature the fruits of summer, simmered down to chunky tomato sauce, and bottled in ‘King Browns’ while summer dishes consist of the tomatoes themselves, served fresh and cool in chunky salads. Food for all seasons.
With an erratic Irish summer coming to a close, I thought it would be fitting to attempt to preserve some of the fleeting sunshine, and make one of my favourite Moroccan accompaniments, Preserved Lemons. The flavour of preserved lemon is zesty, salty and inherently lemony. To use give them a quick rinse, or to tone down the tartness, blanche slightly for 20 seconds.
6 small organic lemons, scrubbed. (While I am generally a fan of organic, in this recipe it is more important than most, as non-organic lemons are usually coated in wax so they look lustrous and appealing on the shelf. Not mad about eating paraffin myself, so go organic!)
2/3 cup rock salt
Extra lemon juice.
Make a score half-deep through each lemon lengthways (keeping it joined at the pith and rind) and then again halfway through widthways.
Place a teaspoon of salt into the bottom of a sterilised jar.
Stuff each lemon full of about a teaspoon of salt and place in jar.
Continue until jar is packed, pressing down to release the juice as you go.
Once the jar is full, add enough lemon juice to cover the lemons
Make sure the rim is free of salt or juice, and that the lid is closed securely.
Stand at room temperature for a week, rotating jar to dissolve any residual salt. Relocate to fridge where the lemons will be ready in a month and happily live for up to six.
Lemons resting for a week at room temperature guarded by the money box man.