Preserving Lemons

Though the winter howls outside our new home, the grocery stores remind me of the fact that it’s citrus season elsewhere in the world–and coming into the time of lemons and oranges back in Portugal. Our friend Eugenio Corto, who lives in Colares and drives the eléctrico from Sintra, sent us these images of the early lemons from his neighbor’s house.

I’d begun my practice of preserving lemons in salt back in Colorado several years ago, before I was surrounded by the bounty of the Iberian Peninsula. With our trips to Spain and around Portugal, I marveled at the oranges just falling and much of the time discarded for the pick of them at the market.

While I made a lively gin drink from those golden orbs, I continued to buy a bulk of lemons for preserving, the giant Ball jar taking up space in the tiny, half-broken refrigerator we were plagued with during our years there. I’d looked for Meyer lemons–the thin-skinned ones I’d preserved before–but they seem to be a California phenomena, and one that would wait til this year, when I went to preserve my first lemons of the new decade.

The thin skin of the Meyers added to their slightly sweeter juice makes them a superb lemon for preserving in salt–they have a floral aspect too. I spent about €8 for 10 lemons–a princely price–and now they sit in a slightly smaller jar in our (working) fridge here in Maryland.

But the lemons in Praia das Maçãs are just now coming into their own–and I miss them! The only comfort I find in leaving them behind lies in using my beloved citrus juicer again–I’d left it in storage all these years. It works just as well as the antique one it’s patterned after, the same one my grandmother and great-grandmother used to squeeze precious fruits during winter a century ago.