Fresh lemons of all varieties have been in my local market for a while now, but the peak of the season is almost over for varieties like yuzus, and meyers. To capture some of the essence of this seasonal citrus, I turned to one of the oldest preservatie methods around, the confit. Confit simply means poached in oil, and it's good for preserving everything from duck and tuna to garlic gloves.
They Don't Call it Zest for Nothing
The bright aromatic oils in the skin of lemons, called the zest, lend heady, floral notes to almost anything without any acid bite. To mellow it a bit so that it blends nicely with salads, soups, stews, meats and fish, make yourself an easy, no fuss citrus zest-olive oil confit. You can experiment with all sorts of varieties, but the regular supermarket variety (lisbons and eurekas) work great.
Lemon Peel Confit
Take about 8 lemons, peel them with a sharp paring knife avoiding as much of the white, spongy pith as you can. It sounds like a lot of work, but if you're reasonably good with a knife it only takes minutes. You can also use a vegetable peeler.
Get the zest ready by placing into a strainer that will conveniently fit into a pot of boiling water. Using the strainer, alternately plunge the zest into softly boiling water for 10 seconds and then into ice water for ten seconds. Repeat this process three times and then set aside. Parboiling softens up the peel, removes any leftover food wax, and tones down the zest's natural sharpness.
Next juice one of the leftover lemons into a small pan and add one peeled garlic clove and two cups of olive oil. Now comes the poaching part: put the oil-juice-garlic mixture on low heat, add the parboiled zest and steep the whole thing for an hour.
The goal of the confit is to heat the ingredients without browning anything, allowing them to soften, meld and release flavor slowly. Once the poaching is complete, cool the confit to room temperature in the pan, transfer it into a wide mouth jar and refrigerate. I've kept zest confit for up to a month, at which point it has usually already disappeared into everything from sandwiches to marinades, soups, and sauces.
If you make the zest confit and like the method, you're in luck. You can make confit out of almost anything including onion, garlic, shrimp, fish, tomatoes, nuts, figs and more. It's not just for duck anymore.