When we first moved to California our rental house came with a prolific lemon tree. New to a climate where citrus could be grown, we thought this was the greatest thing ever -- lemons right outside our door during the rainy gloom of winter. When dinner and party invitations started coming in, we started arriving with lemons as gifts. But when our hosts invariably greeted our lemony bounty with clenched smiles and "Great! Lemons!" we were perplexed. Only later did we realize that practically everyone has lemons.
I recently told this story to someone at a party and they replied - "Of course, lemons are the zucchini of winter! Everyone has more than they know what to do with."
So what do you do with an abundance of lemons?
Marmalade is an easy choice, and one that uses lots of lemons. So is freezing the juice for use in lemonade when the heat of summer arrives. But my new favorite way to use lemons is making salted preserved lemons. They're easier to make than marmalade and a tasty addition to many recipes.
The basic ingredients are lemons and Kosher salt. But I use Paula Wolfert's recipe that also includes spices. Besides adding extra flavor, the whole cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaf look nice in the jar.
Make sure your lemons are very clean. Backyard lemons often have a rougher outer texture that may take a little extra scrubbing.
Starting with a layer of salt on the bottom, pack the lemons into a sterilized jar and layer them with salt and spices.
Press the lemons to release their juice as you pack them. Finish by adding enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to cover.
Now all that's left is time. Let the lemons ripen in a warm place for 30 days, shaking the jar every day or so to distribute the salt, spices and juice. The lemons will start to break down, so don't be alarmed if the lemons are no longer submerged in juice.