lemons

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preserves

it’s lemons, it’s a pufferfish, it’s hitler’s head

I was a bit sad to find that the Flannery O’Connor facebook fan site’s nicely quoted punchline (“Joyce who?”) from her short story The Enduring Chill had been spoiled by a few holy joes trying to find the tale of redemption in it all – stamping on the funny in the process. You can only be lectured so long by a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, who believes that death, offering the hope of resurrection, is no bad thing and was once a paramedic. It’s not surprising, comedy and organised religion have never been equal partners. They fight over the same epistemological turf [sex, death, walking into bars] and in the end humour needs serious people more than serious people need humour. Eco covered this well in Name of the Rose, with the heretical book [spoiler alert] being a book of gags by Aristotle. While the book was about a deductive proto-Holmes unravelling superstition, there was enough slack in the mystery to force the reader into interpretation and interpretation based on context. As he says in KANT and the Platypus

I would not say we can have any real knowledge; if anything, I would maintain that we have an excess of real knowledge. Some are prepared to object that there is no difference between saying there is no truth and saying there are many truths. But we might likewise object that this excess of truth is transitory; it is an effect of our groping our way along , between trial and error; it indicates a limit beyond which these different perspectives (all partly true) could one day be combined in a [jar].

The relatively simple tale of preserving lemons in salt in a jar suffers from an excess of knowledge on the internets and is widely open for interpretation by both readers and writers on the internets. There are at least three different cutting techniques, at least one glaring omission of a hygiene step and differing values placed on perceived taste over cretinism.

This is what I can tell you:

- obtain lemons from your tree or a neighbourhood tree. Don’t buy them, I thinks it better if you just face up to your lack of social connections and your eventual stabbing – Kitty Genovese style – to indifferent neighbours

- don’t bother being too choosy, the ugly ones can be put to good use later.

- give the lemons a scrub and then lop the last few eights of an inch off the ends of the lemons.

- the lemon is then cut into quartered claw; an x made at one end that continues through to all but the last centimetre. The lemon is then stuffed with a tablespoon or so of salt and the salt gets to work on the freshly exposed lemon innards.

- somewhere it’s argued that commercial salt has a metallic taste and that their many mattresses have a pea underneath. Elsewhere it’s said that the added iodine is no bad thing when compared to the goitered life of a Catskills cretin. I used sea salt, if only for the reason that the coarse size allows for a good fill of the lemon, where a finer salt would smother.

- sterilise your jar. Food safety is something you don’t want too much vagary for. In the fridge or a cool dark space? I’m assuming there was a time of preserved lemons before the refrigerator and went for a cool dark space

- in the pantry, behind the booze. One suggestion I followed, and didn’t see elsewhere, was to top the jar up with a sealing layer of a 1/4 cup of olive oil. It seems sound advice.

- most of the action happens over three days. The lemons release their juices and soften. This means that extra lemons can be added to get a nice snug fit and you will need to fill with extra lemon juice to cover the lemons (from the uglies)

- cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, coriander seeds, cloves and peppercorns can all be added in their twos or threes or tablespoon or so.

- from here you’ve got about a month long wait. I’m planning on holding out until christmas, when it’ll be distributed up into gifts and hopefully put to good use. I’m freshening up tagines with mine and they also make for a lovely citric seafood pasta sauce.

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And this post is my yellow contribution to LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow 2009 – once again organised by the inestimable Barbara of winosandfoodies. The events is part of the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s efforts to raise cancer issues worldwide. I’d be surprised if you haven’t got your own experiences. Even in my own fortunate life I’ve got a grandfather I never met, a friend who scared the shit out of us last year, and a colleague who’s on the mend. Keep an eye out for the round-up on the 3rd of October.

UPDATE: it’s up and it’s awesome.

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