Lemon Salt

Boy, did we ever get a bumper crop of Meyer lemons this year. Our little tree was so heavy with lemons and so neglected by us that it just upped and fell over in the backyard. Clearly this was a Hail Mary attempt to get our attention, and it worked. We picked the lemons and propped up the tree, receiving pricks and scratches from its thorny branches; punishment for our neglect. At one point I think I heard the words "I regret nothing!" before the tree stabbed me again. There was blood. I got the message.

Meyer lemons, if you've never had them, are sweeter than the regular variety found in supermarkets and have a thinner skin with an intensely floral, fruity scent. Our friend in Colorado plans to make limoncello from the boxes we sent him. I only mention this so he can save me some for our next visit (pretty please?).

If you happen to have a few lemons (or any citrus fruit, really) then you can zest their skins into a salt mixture for a wonderfully fragrant seasoning. Use it on fish, chicken, vegetables, even dessert. The brightness of the lemon peel mixed with salt adds a great dimension of flavor.

I started with Heidi Swanson's recipe from her blog 101 cookbooks and then tweaked it to my tastes (adding more zest because I had it). I also skipped the oven time called for in the recipe and just spread the seasoning on a plate to dry overnight. I prefer this method because it's easier and there didn't seem to be any noticeable difference. Keep in mind that easier doesn't always mean better... but it does always mean easier. Do what you will with that.

One last thing I should mention is the "best practice" method for using a microplane/zester. Hold the lemon still in one hand, and with your other hand place the zester on top of the lemon and comb the tool towards you (see photo).

Run the zester over the lemon, not the other way around

Run the zester over the lemon, not the other way around

Why do it this way? Because the tool is less slippery than the lemon, lighter to manipulate, and has a convenient handle to hold onto which the lemon decidedly does not have. Same goes for hard cheeses. I've seen people run cheese/citrus over the zester balancing to garnish their dishes and I get the allure, but pushing an awkwardly shaped piece of food down onto a sharp surface increases your chances of slipping and running your hand into those teeth. Ouch. Just as you wouldn't turn your kitchen knife upside down and run an onion down onto it, please don't do it with a handheld plane. Cool? On to the recipe.

Lemon Salt

Adapted from the "Citrus Salt" recipe by Heidi Swanson

I used Maldon sea salt flakes here, but you can certainly experiment with other kinds of salt. Also, try to buy good, organic, citrus. And avoid waxed citrus. If that's what you have on hand though, just be just to give it a good scrub with warm water. Also, dry completely before zesting.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup / 2.25 oz / 65 g flaky sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon citrus zest

Preparation

Preheat your oven to oven 225F / 105C. Combine the salt and citrus in a medium bowl and mix well. Really work the zest into the salt, making sure there aren't any clumps of zest. Spread across a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 70 minutes, or until the citrus is completely dried out (or if you don't mind the clutter just leave it out till it looks dry). Flecks of zest should crumble when pinched between your fingers. Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit. At this point you can pulse each salt a few times in a food processor if you like. Or, you can enjoy it as is. Salts keep in an air-tight jar for a couple of months.

Makes 1/2 cup of finishing salt.

Prep time: 5 min - Cook time: 70 min