Tag Archives: preserving jars

Preserved Lemons

I always like to keep a constant supply of what I call my must-have store cupboard essentials, like home-made vanilla products, dried tomatoes, preserves etc.  Even though I refer to them as store cupboard items, some need refrigeration, as living in the middle east does not allow for a cool enough pantry or store cupboard.

Used in Moroccan and North African cooking, preserved lemons are an indispensable and wonderful item to have… at a moments notice food can take on a new dimension both in flavour and taste by adding small amounts of preserved lemons to salad dressings, salads, stews, relishes, pizza toppings, stuffings, marinades and so much more.

When I started preserving lemons I remember following a recipe that used so much salt that I found them inedible and quite horrible, throwing the whole lot in the bin and not thinking much of preserved lemons.

Before satellite TV came to Bahrain my parents would record cookery programs for me and send them by post. Dad was usually in charge of editing but I could always tell when he had nodded off on the job, leaving me to watch cookery programs along with long TV commercials and bits of other programs. And it was in one of those recorded cookery programs I gave preserved lemons another chance… and if you have never tried making them before, it is so worth the effort!

A little goes a long way with preserved lemons, which are salty, tart and intensely flavoursome and when it comes to slicing and dicing the preserved lemons, a good sharp knife is a must, obtaining the finest results.

With a lemon tree (two years) growing in the garden I would so like to tell you that I am using my own organic lemons, but will have to wait until next year… all my lovely little lemons this year turned black and fell off 😦  I am still not giving up… so fingers crossed for next year.

Preserved Lemons - Diced and Sliced

 Preserved Lemons

Ingredients:

  • 5 lemons, (see note below if not using organic or un-waxed lemons)
  • 5 rounded tablespoons of sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaf
  • extra juice of 3 or 4 lemon (zest beforehand and use in another recipe or dry the peel)
  • olive oil

You will need a suitable preserving jar with a tight fitting lid.

How to make: Using a sharp knife cut the lemons lengthways into 4 quarters, stopping just about 1/2cm before the stem, keeping the lemon quarters intact. Open the lemons up a little and place a rounded tablespoon of salt into the middle of each lemon. Tightly pack all the lemons into a clean sterilized jar, adding the mustard seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Cover the jar with a lid and set aside for several hours, by this time the lemons will start to release a little of their juices.

Open up the jar and using the back of a small ladle, push the lemons down into the jar, helping to release more juice. Pour in the extra lemon juice to fully cover the lemons. Pour a thin layer of olive oil over the surface of the lemon juice and cover with a lid.

Store in the refrigerator for one month before using! When using the preserved lemons remove the pulp and dice or slice the required amount. The pulp can be liquidized and used sparingly in marinades, stews or discarded if wished. Use lemons within six months.

Tip: To help remove and melt the wax from lemons; place lemons into a heatproof bowl and pour over some very hot (not boiling) water. Leave the lemons to sit for a minute or two. Remove the lemons using a slotted spoon or tongs and immediately dry the warm lemons by rubbing them with some kitchen paper or a clean lint free tea towel.

Try using different whole spices like, fennel seeds, cumin, coriander seeds, cardamon pods allspice and star anise, you could also add whole dried chilli.

Have you made or used preserved lemons before? What is your favourite way of using them?

doughnut peach conserve

A miscommunication and two food shoppers meant that a glut of doughnut peaches over filled our fruit bowls! I absolutely love eating these doughnut shaped peaches… to me they are little flattened pillows of sweetness with a wonderful peachy perfume. If you need a sweet fix… eat a doughnut peach…  you will not stop at one! Less fuzzy skinned than other varieties of peach, the flesh pale, sweet, juicy and low on acidity. Because of their shape, these peaches are also called Saturn or even UFO’s.

With a big bowl full of peaches sitting in front of me I was reading a post by fellow food blogger Appetite For Discovery… it was the cherry filling oozing out of the pie that made me think of a lovely jar of chunky conserve…  the urge to start  skinning some peaches came upon me!

Making home-made conserve or jam is not something I do on a regular basis so using ordinary household utensils for the process suits fine. My mother made jam on many occasions with no fancy equipment and I have vivid memories of the big bubbling pot and the wonderful smell of jam filling our home! The chilled saucers in the freezer ready and waiting for the wrinkle test…  great for licking afterwards! All the saved glass jars lined up on the kitchen table, waiting to be filled with the hot sticky jam. Pressing circles of waxed paper over the surface (this is where I would come in) of the jam, then covering with cellophane and securing with thick brown elastic bands. Once the jam had cooled a flick test with the fingers would be preformed on the cellophane covers, confirming the covers were taut and a proper seal had taken place!

Conserves contain bigger and more whole pieces of fruit than jams, both contain lots of sugar which acts as a preservative, enabling long storage of home-made conserves and jams without the need for refrigeration. As I am not interested in storing jam for months on end in a cupboard, making preserves with a high ratio of fruit and less sugar is my preference… hence this home-made conserve needs to be refrigerated and consumed within three to four weeks… no problem there! A delicious tasting peachy conserve, flavored with orange and a hint of clove… with a lovely spoonable consistency!

Doughnut Peach Conserve

Ingredients:

  • 500g doughnut peaches (choose firm fruit)
  • zest one small orange, afterwards segment the orange taking care not to include any pith or membrane
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (preserves the colour of the fruit and increases the pectin content)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of home-made vanilla extract, or store-bought

You will need: One 450ml jar with a lid or use a few smaller volume jars, which will need to be sterilized! Some waxed or silicon paper cut into circles to fit the appropriate jars!

Removing the skin from peaches: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Also fill a large bowl with cold water and throw in some ice cubes. Cut a shallow cross (only into the skin) on the base of each peach with a sharp knife. Place the peaches into the boiling water for about 20 seconds. With the help of a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches quickly into the cold water bath (stops the peaches from cooking) for about 30 seconds. Remove and skin the peaches. Unfortunately all the lovely colour disappears with the skins and the peaches will look somewhat insipid!

This next step is completely optional but wanting to put a bit of blush back into the conserve I gathered the skins of the peaches and gave them a good squeeze over a bowl, collecting about a tablespoon and a half of pinkish coloured liquid (with a bit of flavour)  which I incorporate when making the conserve!

How to make:

Cut each peach into quarters and discard the stone. Cut the orange segments into small pieces.

Add the peaches, juice from the skins (if using) orange zest, orange segments, sugar, lemon juice and cloves into a wide low sided thick-bottomed stainless steel saucepan. Gently mix everything together and let the contents stand undisturbed for about 15 minutes, this process helps extract the juice and also firms up the pieces of fruit enabling chunks of fruit to remain whole in the cooked conserve.

Heat the contents of the saucepan gently while stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Raise the heat and cook steadily (not a rolling boil) until  the fruit is soft and setting point (see note below) has been reached. Take care that the jam does not catch on the bottom of the saucepan and burn! This will take around 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow the conserve to cool for about 10 minutes, stir in the vanilla extract, remove and discard the cloves.

Spoon the peach conserve into a hot sterilized jar.  Press a circle of waxed or silicon paper onto the surface of the conserve and cover with lids.  Store the completely cooled jar in the refrigerator.

How to know when your preserve has reached setting point: Usually I follow the wrinkle test when making a conserve or jam. Spoon a teaspoon of the boiling conserve onto one of the cold saucers from the freezer, let sit for about a minute until cold, then push with your finger… if the preserve wrinkles it has reached setting point, if not, boil for a couple of minutes and test again.

Wonderful delicious ways to use and enjoy Doughnut Peach Conserve:

  • Mix a spoonful of peach conserve thorough a pot of home-made natural yogurt or store-bought, makes a delicious real fruit flavoured yogurt.
  • Place a small chunk of creamy blue cheese or soft goats cheese on a cracker and top with a little blob of peach conserve… I love this combination!
  • Serve the peach conserve as an accompaniment to pan cooked duck breast for a quick fruit sauce.
  • For a quick fruit topping, spoon some peach conserve over plain cheese cake or some vanilla  ice cream.
  • Peach conserve served with warmed croissants, scones, a nice chunk of home-made brown bread or french toast… simple but all delicious!
  • Replace the blackcurrant jam with peach conserve in this Welsh Cheese Cakes recipe.
What is your favourite flavour of conserve or jam? 
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