Posts Tagged With: spice

Pucker Up for Pickled Lemons

Jacqueline Soule here, on a lovely spring day, subbing for “Savor Sister” Martha who usually posts the second week of the month.   As I write this some people are celebrating Passover and others are getting ready for Easter Sunday.  Both holidays celebrating renewal and new life.  Very appropriate because the entire Northern Hemisphere is experiencing spring and new life.
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In my garden, the citrus trees are developing tiny young fruit from the fragrant flowers of last month.  The older lemons from last year are all fully ripe and ready for harvest.  I always wait to harvest my lemons at the point when they fall into my hand with the gentlest tug.  Now they are fully flavorful and astonishingly juicy.  Tart, yes, but barely acidic at all.

Since my lemon trees produced prodigiously this year I am working using all these lemons in new and fun ways.  In December 2016 I wrote about making lemony alcoholic drinks, In March 2017 Carolyn wrote about lemon pie.  Time to look at another lemon use – salted lemons.
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Salted lemon, also called lemon pickle, is a condiment common in South Asian and North African cuisine, including Moroccan tagines and Cambodian ngam nguv, a chicken soup.  Diced, quartered, halved, or whole, lemons are pickled in a brine of salt, lemon juice, and water.  Generally spices are included.

Create.
Lemon – you can do this with only one lemon, or with many.  Rinse off the lemons.
Salt – use canning, sea or kosher salt, not iodized.
Jars with lids – you can sterilize these, but no one in the rest of the world does so.  Your choice.

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Slice the lemons, making a criss-cross through the center, but not cutting all the way through. Just enough to open them up.  Put lemon in jar and add salt.  Plan on at least a 1/2 cup of salt for a quart jar.  Press the lemons down as you go, packing them in tight. Pressing helps release the juice that helps preserve them.

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Choose if you wish to add spices – or not.  Any combination of dried herbs and spices will do – get creative!  I experimented with coriander seed, cinnamon bark, bay leaf, peppercorn, cloves, cardamom pods and sumac.  If you use fresh herbs, use a full cup of salt per quart jar, to ensure the brine is strong enough to kill botulism bacteria.

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Shake the jar once a day for the first few days to help dissolve salt and get any air bubbles to the surface.  The jar should be at least 3/4 full of juice by day three.  If not, be sure to add liquid – either lemon juice or water.

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I add a layer of plastic wrap between salty mixture and the metal lid to help keep the lid from rusting.

Wait.  Lemons are best allowed to pickle at room temperature for at least a month. Longer is fine.
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Use. The pulp of the preserved lemon can be used in stews and sauces, but it is the peel (both zest and pith) that is most valued. The flavor is mildly tart but intensely lemony.  Pieces of lemon may be washed before using to remove any surface salt, or blanched to remove more of the salt and bring out the natural mild sweetness.
The lemons may be sliced, chopped, or minced as needed for the texture of the dish.  Slip some under the skin of a whole chicken for roasting, rub diced over a piece of fish prior to grilling, or coarsely chop and mix in a cold whole grain salad (a twist on taboli).  The rind may be used with or without the pulp.  But don’t throw away the pulp!  The pickled pulp and liquid can be used in Bloody Marys and other beverages where lemon and salt are used.
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Notes:
Salt.  Use non-iodized salt.  This can be kosher salt, sea salt, or pickling salt.  The iodized salt experiment resulted in harsh flavor and a slippery texture.
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Label.  Always label what you have!  Include the date!  Sharpies write on glass and are easily erased with some rubbing alcohol.
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JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).
© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule.  All rights reserved.  Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission.  I receive many requests to reprint my work.  My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site.  Photos © Jacqueline A. Soule and they may not be used, borrowed, shared, etc.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Kino herb, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Savory Cilantro

Coriander_fresh

Cilantro is easily grown in our area in the cool winter months.

Jacqueline Soule posting today on a great herb to start growing now.

Most folks think of cilantro as the quintessential Mexican herb, but it isn’t from Mexico. Cilantro is also called Chinese parsley, but it’s not from China either. The seeds of cilantro go by the name coriander, and are a popular flavor in French sauces, and now we are getting closer. Originally from southern Europe, cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) has been carried around the globe by its fans, and has made itself popular in many regional cuisines.

Say “cilantro” here in the Southwest, and most folks think of salsa. And while cilantro can get along with the heat of chilies in salsa, it quickly dies with the heat of a summer day. Therefore you will want to grow this herb in the cool winter months.

Hate the taste of cilantro? You are not alone. Scientists agree that there appears to be a genetic component to cilantro taste preference. Those that enjoy the herb find it pungent and tangy, those that don’t like it often say it tastes soapy. It’s your genes, and both experiences are equally valid.

Cilantro has been used for millennia as a culinary and medicinal herb. An infusion of coriander seed is said to soothe upset stomach, aid indigestion, as a carminative against flatulence, and was reputed to be an aphrodisiac. It was prized in Father Kino’s time as an ingredient in herbal vinegar used to preserve meat.

Planting and Care.
Cilantro is a cool season crop, and is best planted in our area in September. It should grow through the winter and into April before starting to flower, also called bolting. Leaves are more flavorful before bolting. Once bolting begins, reconcile yourself to the fact that you will soon have ample coriander seed, plus seed to plant next year. Harvest the seed if you want it, because otherwise the lesser goldfinch and doves will clean it all up.

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Coriander “seed” are technically a single seeded fruit with a dry papery husk. (Only a botanist would care!) The papery husk can be removed or left when using this herb.

Like many members of the parsley family, cilantro is a tad fussy about growing conditions. Virtually every member of this family grows best in a well-drained, sandy, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter. The good news is that this makes them easy to grow in containers. Use a container a foot or more deep. Potting soil with some added sand makes a good growing media.

Cilantro is best grown from seed, because like many members of the parsley family, it does not transplant well. Seeds require darkness to germinate, thus the recommended depth is 1/2 inch deep. Cilantro can also be bought as a seedling from a nursery but be careful not to damage the roots when transplanting it.

Cilantro does best with six or more hours of winter sun. Mature plants can take frost to around 20oF, so cover if a harder frost is expected.

Keep the soil relatively moist during establishment. You can let cilantro dry a little more between watering once the plants get larger. Some people believe this makes their flavors stronger.

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Cilantro roots look like tiny carrots, and are eaten in some cultures.

Cilantro gets very lush and full with some fertilizer. However, if you amended your soil at the start you don’t need to add fertilizer. Plus, avoid fertilizing anything when frosts are a possibility. Come late February you could apply a half-strength general purpose fertilizer.

Cilantro is considered a good companion plant to anise and potatoes.

Cilantro could be justified as a garden plant if only for the job it does in attracting pollinators to the garden. Bees enjoy the nectar-rich flowers and the resulting coriander honey is prized for its flavor.

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Coriander flowers are wonderful to attract pollinators to the garden.

The seed provides the culinary herb coriander, and I harvest a great deal of it, but I also like to leave some stalks with seed behind so that flocks of lesser goldfinch will grace my garden with their bright bodies and cheerful chatter.

Harvest and Use.
Cilantro leaves tastes great when fresh but lose much flavor when dried. Freezing the leaves retains more flavor. Select healthy leaves, rinse, pat dry but leave some moisture. Chop into roughly quarter inch squares and freeze in a labeled plastic bag or other container. Use directly from the freezer.

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Cilantro chopped and sprinkled over freshly cooked tilapia.

The seeds, used as coriander, should be harvested after they begin to turn brown and when outer coat cracks, but before they drop off the plant and scatter. Cut the stem below the seed heads and place the whole thing into a paper sack to dry. To clean the seed, rub them gently to remove the outer shell. Many people skip this step.

 

Note: You can read more about growing cilantro in my latest book “Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening” (2014, Cool Springs Press, $23). I hope you will consider purchasing a copy locally at Antigone Books, Arizona Experience Store, or Rillito Nursery. Or buy from me in person (autographed copy!) after one of my next free talks for the Pima County Libraries. More at http://www.library.pima.gov/

 

Photos copyright free and courtesy of Wikimedia.  Article © 2014, Jacqueline Soule.  All rights reserved. I have received many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you are free to use a very short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact me if you have any questions. JAS avatar

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Gardening, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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