Sunday, February 22, 2009

worth the wait

the end of the 2008
and the beginning
of 2009
have made for
a rather gloomy
new jersey 
winter.

right now it's grey,
looming somewhere between
light snow and
heavy rain.
this follows the tease of
a couple pretty days,
but mostly
mornings and 
nights 
battling snow:
brushing off the car
and shoveling out spots
every morning on 
the way to work
and 
every evening on the way
home, both of which 
are only meant to
prepare you for
risky, scary, wintry
drives.

once home,
all you want to do is 
change into 
pajamas,
dive under the covers
with a mug of
tea
or 
hot chocolate
and cross your fingers 
that someone broke
into your house while
you were gone
to make a hot pot
of stew.

or maybe that's just me.

on one of these days,
cranky from
frozen fingers and toes,
and the snow plow that
had gotten dangerously
close to me
(not my car, me)
in the parking lot,
i walked into the 
supermarket and 
saw a sea of 
gorgeous
smooth, 
shiny
and 
bright yellow

there were so many
and they were so pretty
and cheerful
and even though i was
without a plan,
i bought four. they were
my only purchase and
when i ran through 
the parking lot,
i clutched them against
my chest
until i got into the car
and promised myself
to make something uplifting.

when i got home,
i kicked off my slush-covered
sneakers
and ran for the computer, 
looking for the recipe 
that called out to me.

meyer lemons, unlike their common
extremely tart and bitter relatives -
lemons, as we know them -
are bursting with floral notes
and have balanced their acidity
with sweetness, which
in some circles
makes them 
reminiscent of
oranges, and perfect
for desserts. 

they don't stick around for
long. their season is fleeting,
so when i saw them,
i knew i should make something
special. i tossed around
the idea of 
or a mousse
or curd,
before realizing that i had
nothing going on
in my life
that required sweets
to be made.

and, then, 
i saw a recipe,
that before i even clicked 
on, i knew would be the 
winner:
i loved that by saving them
in a jar,
i could enjoy the slivers
year-round,
that they could be
used for savory dishes
and, that
i could always 
look at
bright yellow
lemons,
when things got
too grey
outside.

the only problem?
i only had four.
the recipe called for 10-12.
i waited patiently and crossed
my fingers for 3 days that they 
would still be there when
i returned to the store. they were.
then, i realized that i didn't actually
have a jar with a tight fitting lid.
jars, when you can't
get to a craft store
right away,
are surprisingly hard to find.

so, i stared at them on my counter,
talked to them,
pleaded with them to not go 
bad before i had the
jar,
opportunity
and 
time
to toss them into a pot of
boiling water
and bury
them in mountains
of coarse salt.

a week later,
i set to work early
in the morning with
coffee in hand, expecting 
a tedious task.
it was surprisingly easy.
i boiled six of the lemons
while juicing the other ones.

when they were cool,
i cut the fruits into 8ths, 
removed the seeds
tossed them with salt,
packed the wedges into 
a jar, covered them 
with juice
and then reality set
in.

i had to wait even longer
to enjoy them. only
five days, if i'm being 
honest, but i've never been
especially good
at waiting it out.
when i was younger,
i always opted for the 
one-hour photo 
after a big event 
and refused 
to leave the store 
until the pictures
were in my hand, 
and even then,
i inspected each one in 
the checkout line. 
my senior year
was torture, a daily parade 
of mailbox checking, in
search of college
acceptances.
and every week,
i become legitimately
upset when i realize
that i have to wait
7 more days 
before finding out
the next quickfire on
or what's really
happening to izzy

so five days felt like 
a lot. because, in spite
of lacking a certain
amount of patience,
i'm not a cheater.
in spite of the temptation
to open the jar each
day, and taste one,
i worried more that 
it was wrong and that 
one slip of oxygen
would ruin the whole
batch. and in spite
of wanting to 
taste one
every day,
i worried that they would
ultimately be delicious, and i would
regret the five 
progress-taste tests
because it would mean
five less wedges to use
throughout the year
if i loved them.

when the time was up,
i did nibble on a wedge.
the thin rind, was tender,
the flavor of the whole thing
sweet and salty
and slightly, just slightly,
spicy.
the result, was 
undoubtedly lemon-like,
but so much more.
with one bite, i could 
imagine
adding them to 
dish
after dish
as my secret ingredient.
i resisted the
urge to "try" another,
and instead,
poured in a splash of
olive oil 
and
tightened the lid.
i couldn't wait to play. 

preserved meyer lemons
if you cannot find meyer lemons, you can still preserve the traditional ones. also, make sure that you have extra lemons ready if need be. in spite of using a jar that was one cup smaller than should be, i still didn't have quite enough to pack tightly (as is best) or enough juice to cover. i did have traditonal lemons, so i used some of their juice to make up the difference. also, don't worry if the salt seems to settle for the first day or two. thanks to the soaking and the once-a-day-shake, it all absorbs and evens out.

3 lbs. meyer lemons (about 12), divided
2/3 cup coarse salt
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cup jar with a tight fitting lid

bring pot of water to a boil; add 6 lemons. when cool enough to handle, cut each lemon into 8 wedges; using sharp knife, remove seeds. place salt in bowl; add lemon wedges and toss to coat. pack lemons into jar.

meanwhile, squeeze enough juice from remaining lemons to measure 1 cup. add enough juice to jar to cover lemons. cover jar with lid, making sure it is on tightly. shake jar once a day for five days. pour olive oil into jar. cover tightly with lid. store in fridge for up to one year.

2 comments:

Lisa said...

Neat! What will you use them in?

brooke herman said...

well, so far, i've only made sandwiches...i've read great things about bloody marys, pizzas and clams with preserved lemons, so they're probably somewhere on the horizon. i don't know...it's kind of exciting.