What I really wanted to make was something called mille-feuille nabemono. Mille-feuille, French for ‘a thousand leaves’, is a dessert that layers puff pastry and a filling. Nabemono is Japanese hot pot. I encountered the dish on a Korean cooking show and was so intrigued that I braved making stock (water + kombu + bonito flakes + leeks + dried shiitake mushrooms + radish + onion + splash of soy sauce) and the tedious layering of cabbage, sesame leaves, sukiyaki-cut beef ad nauseam.
Visually stunning but the dining experience was underwhelming. I’m sure that was my fault because 1) my expectations were whatever came after sky high and 2) I don’t have a portable stove. I think it’s really important to eat this while it’s on low heat simmering and reducing away because the grand finale of this culinary event is rice that’s fried in the same pot with chopped kimchi, sesame oil, and an egg. Doesn’t that sound bomb? With no portable stove, I just ended up with a lot of soup with limp vegetables floating around. It was kind of sad.
This wasn’t entirely a loss because the preserved lemons I made about two months ago to use in the sauce turned out to be my favorite thing. Oh yes, there was sauce. Because this was kind of like shabu-shabu.
And that’s what I wanted to tell you about today. The preserved lemons are easy peasy and they’re incredibly delicious. My mouth waters at the thought! To make, I used:
Baking soda as needed
About 4 lemons (to make 2 cups of thinly sliced lemons)
2 cups sugar
- Before anything, the lemons have to be cleaned. To do that, I placed the lemons in a bowl, doused them with baking soda, and scrubbed them for about a minute each. Then I left them, baking soda and all, to sit for about 20 minutes.
- Rinse the lemons and slice thinly. Discard the seeds.
- In a sterilized jar, layer the sliced lemons and sugar making sure to start and end with sugar.
4. Close lid and leave in a cool, dry place for a couple of days. I think I put this in the fridge on day 3. And then I forgot about it along with my plans to make mille-feuille nabemono. And when I finally got around to it, it had been about two months and the lemons were looking like this:
I got my first taste while I was chopping them up to go into the sauce and I found myself gobbling them up whole from the jar because they were so good. When preserved in sugar like this, the pith and zest of the lemon lose all trace of bitterness and what’s left is just a sweet and pleasantly intense lemon flavor. Every slice is so delicious and refreshing!
I’ve been mixing a few slices and a generous amount of the syrup into a glass of cold water to make homemade lemonade.
It should work just as well with hot water. I’ve been tossing a few slices into the blender to brighten my smoothie. I can’t wait to chop some into a salad or use the syrup in a vinaigrette. Drizzle over French toast? More importantly, I should make a new batch because this jar is almost empty.
My lemons were preserved for two months only because I totally forgot about them but I believe they should be ready in about two weeks. And aside from the fact that lemons are good for you, I think there might be some health benefits to preserving fruit like this but the recipes I see involve healthier sweeteners like brown sugar and honey. The word ‘enzyme’ comes up a lot. Will try that on my next batch and report back to you.
Easy peasy lemon preserve-y, you are my new squeeze-y. 💛
Fun Food Fact: The skin of the lemon is called peel or rind. The colorful part of the rind is called zest and the white part is called pith. That wasn’t very fun but I was confused.