I feel a little guilty blogging about these two, but both are so good – and super easy – that I decided to get over my self-reproach and share these gems.
I really enjoy Moroccan recipes, which often call for preserved lemon. I’ve never seen preserved lemons in the grocery store, and anyone who knows me understands my proclivity for making it myself any way, so I decided to give it a try. These are quick to put together and just require patience for them to mature. Don’t be concerned about the amount of salt in the preparation, which along with the acid, act as preserving agents.
|(I got black and white back boards to improve my photos, a step in the right direction. Next I need to work on the lighting.)|
8 or so lemons, scrubbed very clean with a vegetable brush
1/2 cup kosher or sea salt, more if needed to cover lemons – my research indicates that iodine salt will ferment the lemons, so don’t use it!
A bit of fresh lemon juice if needed to cover lemons
Cover the bottom of a sterilized quart canning jar with kosher salt, about two tablespoons.
For each lemon, cut off any protruding stem and about 1/4-inch from the top of the lemon. Cut the lemon in half length-wise but don’t cut all the way through, keeping the lemon attached at the base. Turn the lemon and make another similar length-wise cut, again, not all the way through the lemon, so now it is cut into quarters. Gently open the lemon and liberally fill the lemon with salt.
Pack the lemons into the jar and smash such that the juice draws from the lemons, continuing to press the lemons down to fill the jar. Once the jar is full, top it off with a few more tablespoons of salt and enough fresh lemon juice to fill the jar. Seal the jar, and that’s it.
Let the jar sit at room temperature for a week or so, shaking it every day to distribute the salt and juice. Move it to a cool dark place and allow the lemons to ripen for 30 days.
When you are ready to use a lemon, remove it from the brine and rinse thoroughly with a lot of water to remove the salt. Remove the seeds, and some sources indicate to remove and discard the pulp.
My research indicates these keep indefinitely and do not need to be refrigerated. The longer they mature, the softer the lemons get and eventually with the help of a knife, they can become be made into a paste, great for use in an aioli. Preserved lemons are great in tagines, couscous, with chicken, fish, pasta, in salad dressing, marinades, the list goes on and on.
Moving on to homemade peanut butter. Since mid-summer, I’ve been making the peanut butter we eat. “Making” feels like an exaggeration since it’s so simple. Combine a few cups of lightly salted peanuts (from Whole Foods) and a tablespoon or so of peanut oil into the Vitamix blender, slowly increasing the speed, processing no more than a minute at a time, tampering as needed, until the peanuts have processed to the desired consistency. Voila, you have amazing peanut butter.
Is it worth this (little) effort when it’s easy to simply buy peanut butter? Yes! You know exactly what is in your peanut butter (no artery-clogging trans fats, hydrogenated oil, and no sugar). As long as you have peanuts in your pantry, you’ll never run out of peanut butter again, and it takes five minutes to prepare it. It doesn’t separate into oil and a glob like commercial, natural p-butter. And best of all is the taste. While it may not be as creamy as the commercial stuff, it tastes like you’re munching on a handful of savory peanuts (it still has little flecks of peanuts). Sometimes I use more peanuts than oil, and it’s a little thicker and crunchier, or like when I made a batch on Saturday, it is a bit smoother and creamier. Either way, appreciably better than anything you’ll ever buy in the grocery store and much cheaper. I cannot attest that you can make p-butter in other blenders, but I’d imagine you can if your food processor is heavy duty.