We’ve got loads of lemons right now and I don’t care what they say; you can only make so much lemonade. So I’ve been pickling them every which way. One way is a spicy Indian recipe that I’ve mentioned before. That one’s a time-tested favorite. The other (on the left in the picture) is more of a Mediterranean lemon, although I’ve tweaked it by leaving out the olive oil and adding turmeric. Read on for a step-by-step recipe.
Not only do we have a lemon tree in our yard, our neighbors have one that I see every morning. Whenever I see it I think pickles. Luckily the neighbors like to share.
These are the lemons their tree gives us. They’re small and mild. Not like a Meyer though. More like a cross between a lemon and an orange.
The lemons from our tree, on the other hand, are sour and tend to run large.
For pickling it’s best to use the freshest lemons you can get. In fact, it’s ok if they’re somewhat unripe. It’s the rind we’re really pickling here, in a salty goo of fruit and spices, and we want it firm and bitter. However, we also want the insides to readily loosen and ferment, so if your lemons are hard you can soften them up by rolling them a bit under the palm of your hand.
Chop off the top of the lemon if there’s any stem still attached. Then slice them up into pieces small enough to sit easily on a teaspoon. The little lemons are just about the right size as full and half slices.
The large ones are much bigger, and need to be chopped smaller. Take out any seeds you find.
How many lemons will you need? To fill a half-gallon mason jar you’ll need… more than you think. I don’t have an exact count (especially considering size variation), but after chopping, salting, and squishing you can squeeze a lot of lemons into such a jar. I like to wash two dozen small lemons, then toss them into the jar as I chop them. I press them down as I go. Once I’ve come close to filling the jar I pour them back out into a big mixing bowl.
I put all the chopped lemons into a big bowl and add 1 cup of salt.
Then I add a tablespoon of turmeric.
Mix ’em well to get salt all over everything. And watch out if you use your hands. Grinding them against all that salt can burn.
Start filling the jar and add a few bay leaves and cinnamon sticks as you go along. Three of each is plenty, but add as many as you like. Mash the lemons down to get out air bubbles and make the most of your jar space.
Once the jar is close to packed, add the juice out of two to four lemons.
Then put on a lid and give the jar a good shake. I like to use plastic lids because the metal ones rust when salty pickle gets on them. You can usually plastic ones next to the mason jars at the hardware store.
Leave the lemon out on a counter or in front of a warm, sunny window. Shake the jar every day to mix the lemons around and coat them with the salty brine-mush, limiting the period that any particular lemon spends exposed to the air where molds can grow. It won’t hurt to shake the jar two or three times a day. This is most important at the beginning when you want the good fermenting bacteria to take hold instead of mold, but you should keep doing it every day that the jar sits out. After shaking you can also turn the jar upside down and leave it that way for a day.
After a month or so the lemons will be soft, a little mellower in flavor, and very salty. I use them whole and mashed to flavor soups, sauces, marinades, and dressings. They’re also good under a bit of fresh olive oil as an appetizer along with olives and bread. Yum.