My mother keeps a meyer lemon tree in a glass room off the back of our house in Virginia and every winter it yields exactly one lemon. This year she brought this singular bounty with her up to New York for the holidays and we had big plans for it. Maybe we’d make meyer lemon hot toddies, maybe we’d put the zest over braised fennel bulbs (a recipe cut from the New York Times Magazine five years ago and so loved the paper is almost literally see-through from having been groped often by olive oily fingers), maybe we’d… make lemonade? But, alas, the lemon got repeatedly passed over in favor of Chinatown Dim Sum and Staten Island pizza. As of yesterday, it was still just sitting there. Beautiful, a saturated yellowy orange the color of organic egg yolks or fiestaware, solitary, special. So…. what to do? I did some light googling and came across this article from the LA Times, 100 Things to Do with a Meyer Lemon (ahhh California, where such lemons are so uproariously plentiful that suggestions #35 is “Throw a Meyer lemon for your dog to catch and play with; you’ll lose the lemon, but your dog’s breath will smell fantastic.”). And though I only had one lemon, I decided to make Marcus Samuelsson’s Shrimp piri piri with quick-preserved Meyer lemonsThe quick preserving of the lemon peel was absolutely fantastic- yielding a sweet-salty-sour-somewhat pickled-somewhat candied-sort of bitter-sort of crystalline zest that is making my mouth water now just thinking about it. The preserved lemon was perfect with the cilantro-and-pepper spice of the shrimp, but really, it would be fabulous on many things in many flavor directions- pricking into the slow heat and sweetness of a curry, in lieu of lime on adobo roasted chicken and rice, sprinkled over fresh pizza with thyme and ricotta, marinated with fresh fish and olives, over pasta with just a little hard cheese… So, at its heart the solitary lemon traveled up from the south to yield something even better than a hot toddy (if you can believe it): a new easy, cheap, and delicious trick to turn the usual mundane recessionary meal into something truly spectacular. Here’s the recipe for the quick preserved lemons, find the rest of the shrimp piri piri recipe here.
Quick-preserved Meyer lemons
6 Meyer lemons
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the lemons, trying to keep away from the white pith. (If necessary, scrape any pith away from the peels with a small knife.) Squeeze the juice from the peeled lemons into a bowl and reserve: You should have about 1 cup. Add water to bring the liquid up to 2 cups; set aside to reserve.
2. Place the peel and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Drain. Repeat this procedure once more. Return the drained peel to the pan, add the reserved juice, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Makes about three-eighths cup.
Since I only had one lemon, I used 2tsp each of salt and sugar and it made enough preserved lemon for Sweetheart and I to totally enjoy. Good to know. When life gives you lemon, quick preserve it.
Piri Piri image via Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times