Preserving food in salt is a centuries old method that crosses cultures. In Morocco, they salt preserve all sorts of vegetables as well as lemons. Every market you go to, you see containers and jars packed with all sorts of preserved veggies.
Chicken tajine with preserved lemons and olives is a classic Moroccan dish which I loved eating and wanted to be able to make home home but I needed the preserved lemons. The cook, at the riad that we staying at in Fes, gave shared her recipe which is very simple.
• 6 large organic lemons (Since you’ll be eating the rind, get organic lemons if you can. If not, wash the lemons well.) • 1/4 – 1/3 cup sea salt • Mason jar or any jar with a tight lid
1. Slice the lemons as if to quarter them but leave the base intact. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of salt on the flesh of the lemons and then reshape the fruit. 2. Pack the lemons into the jar, pressing down on each one to squash them. Sprinkle salt on top of each lemon as you go along. Add enough fresh pressed lemon juice to cover the lemons. I add a couple of dried chilies to the jar to add some “bite” to the lemons but you can add any dried herbs you like.
Every few days, shake the jar to redistribute the salt. The lemons will be ready after one month. To use, remove and discard the pulp and gently rinse the rind under running water before slicing and adding to the dish. I’ve been using thinly sliced strips on top of grilled seafood and diced bits sprinkled in salads. Delicious!
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It's a souvenir, AND protection from evil!
My favorite souvenirs are items that carry significance in the local culture. In Morocco, these are known as the hand of Fatima, named after Muhammad's daughter. In the rest of the Arabic world, they are known as hamsa (or khamsa), which literally means “five” but can also mean “the five fingers of the hand”. The hamsa is a lucky charm of sorts, believed to provide protection against the evil eye. The exact origins of this symbol are unknown, but some Mesopotamian artifacts contained the image of an open right hand. At some point the symbol was also incorporated into Jewish culture where it is known as the hand of Miriam, for the sister of Moses and Aaron.
One of the great things about Fez is the opportunity to learn how many of the handicrafts you see are created. During a tour of the city, we saw pottery and tile pieces in progress, from the creation of these small tiles, later a mosaic design, to a tagine, whipped up in seconds by memory on the pottery wheel.