Thursday, September 8, 2011

More From the Fall Pantry: Citron Confit

Confession: I hate waste. I can't waste anything, especially food. I didn't grow up poor, to the contrary. Still, I abhor waste. I can track this characteristic back to my childhood. While there was always more than plenty we didn't waste. At the end of a meal my Father would return portions of milk we didn't drink back into the milk carton. I know, very gross. We ate what we were served. It was that simple. If fruit or vegetables, especially lettuce got slightly brown, it didn't matter, it was eaten. I remember being slightly overcome with disgust in college when I came home for holidays that the food in our fridge looked like it might have a life of its own. I am sure, even though we had money and didn't have to stretch, this was a some kind of post depression behavior that came through my Father. After all, he was the one collecting the milk at the end of dinner.

The essence of this mentality stuck. I don't actually pour milk back into the carton but I do not throw out much and I make use of parts of food most people discard without a thought. Bones of any kind go into the freezer, shells from shrimp, crab or lobster, into the freezer. Peelings of vegetables, carrots, celery, onion skins for example, all go into the freezer. Like magic the trimmings of our meat, fish and vegetables turn into homemade broth on a regular basis. There is something wickedly satisfying about this!

Citrus! God forbid the rind of anything get tossed. However in the summer this presents a particular problem as I make fresh squeezed lemonade almost every week. Before juicing lemons, limes or oranges they get zested. The zest gets frozen and then tossed into something else later, like homemade lemon curd. By the end of the summer I am completely overstocked with zest. So the idea of Citron Confit, or preserved lemons really appeals to me. Citrus rind essentially picked to be tossed into just about anything to liven up a dish, what a great idea and so easy.

I had a few lemons and limes sitting around that just were not going to get used in the next few days so I decided to put up some preserved lemons and limes. I simply cut up the lemons and tossed them into a pint size canning jar with lots of salt, smashing them down to create a plethora of juice. They will sit on the counter for a few weeks, getting shaken every now and again for a few weeks and then I will put them in the fridge and use them for any number of things, tossed into steamed vegetables, smashed into butter to dollop on fish, mixed in a gluten-free couscous, into a bowl of wild rice, the list is endless. There are so many different ways to go about preserving citrus but it really is as easy as just tossing the peel into a jar with salt. Go ahead and google preserved lemons and you will find a dozens of directions and ideas for jazzing up the brine with bay leaf, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cinnamon . . . I just stuck with salt for my first attempt. I am anxious to to try the fruits of my labor after tincture of time and plan on making a smoked paprika-chipotle sauce that calls for preserved lemons to serve at a welcome home party for my wife.

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