As I was wandering around the shuk, my gaze alighted on some absolutely beautiful little lemons. Not the hefty variety of the summer but rather perfect, juice filled, thin skinned little things. I greedily began to fill my bag, rejecting the larger specimens, looking for the yellowest I could find.
As I was picking my way through the produce, the little old Moroccan man who was at my elbow doing the same asked whether I was going to pickle them. Although I hadn’t thought too much about was I was going to use them for, you can be pretty damned sure that I knew now and that this was an angel in (a very good) disguise, sent to guide me.
I enquired as to what needed to be done and he explained the basic principal; take the end of, slice through but keep the fruit together and rub with finely chopped garlic and spicy pepper, then throw them in a jar and cover with lemon juice and wait. The shop keeper seized the opportunity to offer me garlic, 2 packs for 10 shekels – well I’m no freier! That’s a great price. So I bought my 2 packs and went off in search of Chili to my favourite spice place – Bashkevits – they’ve been in the covered shuk since 1937 and are well stocked and pleasant. I parted with a further 4 shekels to get my spice in order and then headed for home.
Before I got underway, I decided to check some other sources for the recipe and was able to find plenty; not least 2 versions in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem (a quick one and a traditional one) – what I did discover however was that there are any number of ways to do make it – from the size of the lemons and how you cut them to what liquid to use and what spices to add to the mix. The common themes I discovered however were that everyone uses lots of salt and no-one uses garlic.
My version therefore is a mixture of Ottolenghi’s and the Moroccan guy in the shuk – and I’ll tell you how they turned out in part 2 of this post – they may be grim but I have to let you know this now because the lemons may be gone by the time the pickle is ready – so go out now and buy while you can!
8 – 10 lemons (I’m experimenting – if they come out great then I’ll be using more next time
4 – 5 tbsp of thick / kosher salt
1 tbsp of coarse chili powder (you can use sweet or spicy paprika or leave this out altogether)
4 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped (use the salt to grind it down like this)
Juice of 4 or 5 additional lemons
Sterilised glass jar (use boiling water – carefully to do this)
Make two deep cuts from one end of each lemon in an x shape to about 2/3 of the way through
mix together the salt, chili and garlic and rub a generous amount into the cuts
pack tightly into your jar
fill with lemon juice