When we bought this house, I think the lemon tree in the garden clinched it. Most of the places I lived in as a kid had a lemon tree, but my nomadic adult life had been largely bereft of them. A stint living in London and another in Chicago – where lemon trees are just not an option – really brought home how lucky we are to be able to have something so wonderful growing in our backyards.
Ours is having a happy, vibrantly healthy year after we netted it for the whole winter for the first time to protect it from marauding possums. I didn’t realise it was even possible, but the local possums seem to have developed a particular taste for lemon trees. Two winters back they stripped ours nearly bare. When we renovated this place we designed around it, and I told the builders that if anything happened to it, one of them would be required as a blood sacrifice. They weren’t entirely sure I was joking.
Today I also opened the last jar of preserved lemons left over from a massive crop a couple of years ago. I don’t know how long they should last in the jar, but they still smell and taste fantastic, and there’s no sign of mould, so I figure they’re still good to go.
There are a million recipes for making preserved lemons around online and they’re all much the same, so I won’t add to the mix. Except to say fresh off the tree and unwaxed is obviously best. Do it even if you have only a few extra. It’s worth it just to open the jar and get a faceful of that sharp, tangy, funky smell.
Its use today is with roast goat leg (grown up and free range, not kid). It’s a spectacular recipe we’ve done a couple of times (the inspiration comes from this site). The marinade it’s sitting in is a blend of Lebanese 7-spice, preserved lemon, garlic, oil, salt and stock. We have left it in this for up to 3 days (the first time accidentally because I was too sick to contemplate cooking it after 24 or 48 hours, the second time deliberately because the long marinade worked so well), but today will be just a few hours. Then cook it slowly for 4 hours. It’s just magnificent.
The Lebanese 7-spice I use often morphs to 9 or 10 spice once I look at the range of recipes available, and the variations among Lebanese, Arabic and Turkish 7-spice blends, and decide what seems reasonable today. This one has equal amounts of black pepper, all spice (rather than cinnamon, which I find can get a bit overpowering in meat), mace (instead of nutmeg, just because it’s easier to throw in a spice grinder), cumin, coriander, cloves and powdered ginger, and half measures of cardamom, paprika and fenugreek. I’m sure purists will be horrified, but I can tell you it works.