Today: Holiday gift giving can be overwhelming. Preserve your sanity -- and your lemons -- with a simple yet showstopping recipe.
To make it easy for you, we're giving away a set of green Ball jars. Just tell us what edible gift you'd make in the comments below by Monday, December 1st at 5 PM to win.
Update: Congratulations to Richard Gervase for winning a set of jars -- we're looking forward to hearing his recipe for Italian plum brandy!
Growing up, my family had a two-tier system for holiday gifts. Acquaintances, far-flung family members, and co-workers got a family Christmas card in the mail. A small circle of close friends and neighbors -- deemed the lucky ones -- got my mother’s freshly baked cinnamon rolls.
Baking her cinnamon rolls is the most coveted gift my mother gives. Everyone appreciates the care and time that goes into making them -- and also that they are just so damn good.
Edible gifts are personal in a way most purchased presents aren't, no matter how thoughtfully chosen. I’ve never attempted to make the famous cinnamon rolls, but I do love to make my own gifts: Peppermint bark and toffee star in my holiday repertoire.
A good edible gift should be easy to ship or carry, it should taste fantastic, and it should be unusual. Our favorite for this year? Preserved lemons.
More: We had an edible gift contest -- and you guys rocked it.
Preserved lemons are the Scotch whiskey of the pantry -- better with age and always welcome at a party. Salt mellows out the sweet, intense citrus flavor and dulls the bitterness of the lemon, and preserving softens the peel so it’s easy to dice and add to everything from mashed potatoes to braised lamb. You’ll traditionally find them in Middle Eastern recipes, but don’t stereotype them as such: Take your cues from their flavor -- salty, slightly-sweet, tangy, citrusy -- and mix them into pasta, toss them with salad, or blend them into guacamole.
Preserving sounds complicated, right? It’s not: The recipe takes about 10 minutes and the only skill required is slicing citrus. This is an everyman's recipe that yields impressively fancy-looking results (a win-win!).
The method is simple (and you can follow along in this video): Cut your lemons into quarters lengthwise, without slicing through the base. Fill glass quart jars with a layer of salt and pack the cut lemons into the jars, pressing slightly to release their juices, and salting each layer. Leave about an inch of space at the top, add some more salt, and seal the jar. Tie a pretty ribbon around the top. If you want to get fancy, include a handwritten recipe (like Israeli couscous with preserved lemons and herbed tuna).
Any jar will do, but we like to use green quart-sized heritage Ball jars. They brighten up the kitchen -- and when the lemons run out, use them as a vase, a water glass, or cocktail shaker -- they're endlessly useful.
To celebrate the gifting season, we’re giving away a set of 12! To win, leave a comment below by Monday, December 1st at 5 PM telling us what edible gift you’re making this year. Chocolate bark? Fancy flavored salt? Cookies?
Photos by James Ransom