Sometimes my job allows me to take sunny drives around California to meet with olive oil producers and visit their groves. I drove down a long gravel driveway to receive the warmest welcome to the Talcott Estate in Carneros. Jim handed me the keys to his mule to explore the property as he finished cooking lunch. Lefty chased alongside the tractor, only to dive back down a row of trees and disappear in the mustard blossoms.
I left with a tired dog and a bag full of meyer lemons from their gardens. So I made lemon preserves.
Meyer Lemon Preserves
Recipe adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc Recipe
for two medium mason jars/or about 4 small ones.
- Meyer lemons
- About 2 to 3 cups of fresh lemon juice
- Kosher Salt
- California Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Whole peppercorns
- Whole juniper berries (optional)
- Bay leaves
In advance: Start by scrubbing the lemons to remove any dirt. Sanitize the jars and lids by a quick dip in a hot water bath, or 30 minutes on a baking sheet in the oven at 250 degrees. Allow the jars to cool completely before starting this.
Juice the lemons. Prep the lemons for your jars. I had two small jars and one large.
For the small jars, slices are the way to go. Slice the lemons and toss them in a bowl with a generous amount of salt. So much salt that each slice is coated. Add about a 1/4" of salt to the bottom of the jar to start. Then stack them in your jar, adding a couple peppercorns and bay leaves (and juniper berries if using). Really pack the lemons in tight.
For the larger jars, start with about 1/2" of salt on the bottom of the jar. Quarter the lemons, but do not cut through, leave the bottom intact so they are still connected to the stem. Open up the lemon and pack with salt. Close it back up and repeat for as many lemons as you can fit in this jar. Add a few peppercorns and bay leaves. Pack it tight.
After the lemons are in the jars, top the jars with lemon juice to fill almost to the top. Add a bit of olive oil on the surface so the jar is full. Seal close.
Store for one month in a cool, dark spot like a pantry. Shake them up every few days. Refrigerate after opening - lasts one month in fridge, up to one year unopened.
The finished product will be glossy, soft and fragrant. Cut up the peel for use with grains, salads or fish. The pulp is great with dressings or to flavor meats before roasting or grilling.