Thursday, January 21, 2010

CanJam Episode 1- Citrus Fruit!

Colette and I were overjoyed to learn that our first challenge was to make something with citrus fruit and for us the choice of fruit was a no brainer- we love our lemons! Local grown citrus is not a possibility here in the Great White North but organic lemons abound so we stocked up.

What to do with them was less obvious. We spent a fun evening earlier this month checking out many different options and it came down to two possibilities. Colette's first choice was a Lemon and Quince chutney but we quickly realized that we'd missed the boat on quinces, a truely seasonal fruit. We had thought of trying another recipe but in the end time ran out and we went with my first choice - Spiced Lemon Pickles.

We found the recipe in one of my favourite cook books, Madame Benoit Cooks at Home published 1978. Decades before the plethora of celebrity chefs, Jehane Benoit made a name for herself as one of Canada's most prominent food experts. She studied at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and graduated as a food chemist from the Sorbonne in 1925 - 25 years before Julia Child! Although she never attained the worldwide recognition of Child, Madame Benoit was a fixture on Canadian television from the 1960's to the mid 80's and wrote numerous books. Most of her recipes were based on traditional French Canadian dishes and her section on preserves contains many recipes that have fallen by the way side and deserve to be brought back. Spiced lemon pickles seemed like a good place for us to kick off the Canjam!

The recipe is simple and straight forward:

9 large lemons
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1 small ginger root
4 or five whole cloves

Wash and thoroughly dry the lemons.
Cut them, without peeling, into crosswise slices one-quarter inch thick.
Combine the sugar, salt, spices, water and vinegar in a saucepan.
Boil five minutes.
Drop the lemon slices into the boiling syrup and boil one minute.
Pack the lemons into hot sterilized half-pint jars.
Cover with the boiling syrup, leaving 1/2" headspace.
Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

The recipe claims to make 6 250 ml jars but either our lemon were small or our jars were big because we got 3. ( One jar each and one for trading!)
The pickles should sit at least 3 weeks before opening but we miscalculated the date so ours were 2 weeks old when we open them. No matter, they are absolutely delicious! According to Madame Benoit these make "an ideal gentleman's gift" and per her suggestion we tried them with some aged cheddar and a glass of port- Heavenly!


  1. This is a truly intriguing recipe that I will most likely have to try myself! I've used a similar brine to pickle cucumbers, zucchini, cherry tomaotes & even carrots... but lemons? That never crossed my mind! :) Thanks for a totally 'out of the box' idea!!

  2. I'm in The Can Jam, too, and I was thinking about pickling citrus. Unfortunately, I didn't have that Madame Benoit cookbook, and ended up making marmalade. Nonetheless, I now have your recipe, and will most likely make these. Thanks!

  3. What a fabulous and different recipe. I will have to give it a try!

  4. Thanks for the comments! We've use a similar brine to do our pickled beets and a variation of beans but would never have thought of lemons if I hadn't seen the recipe.

    They are quite different- you can even eat the pith and it's very tasty, not at all bitter as one would expect. Right now the rind is still a bit hard but I'm hoping the longer they pickle the softer it will get. I can't wait to use them to cook with!

  5. Wow, that sounds really interesting and awesome! I will have to try that (& check out the cookbook too!)

  6. Hello! These look lovely, what nice slices! I made some pickled oranges for the can jam, but I boiled mine for a lot longer (both for the first water step and the vinegar syrup step), which made for softer peels. But then the fruit part fell apart a little, so there are pros and cons to longer or shorter cooking times. I would like to try making a less-sweet citrus pickle like this sometime, because my recipe had so much sugar it is practically marmalade!

  7. Just stumbled on your bolg through the Cam Jam and wanted to thank you for both the wonderful lemon idea as well as the book recommendation. I've already requested it from my local library. Madame Benoit sounds like a fabulous lady, I look forward to reading through her book.

  8. Those look fabulous!
    What a great idea!
    I canned some lemons in a clove sugar syrup this last summer, but I'm too afraid to open them!
    Pickled lemons sound like a much better idea! :)

  9. This sounds interesting. I wonder what dish pickled lemons would be suitable for. Do you have an idea? The lack of recipes is the only thing that keeps me from pickling lemons.

  10. I've got these in the water bath now. Smells awesome in my house. Yum. I kinda want to drink the brine. =)

  11. It's been a week since we open the jar and the rinds are much softer and completely edible now. So waiting the 3 weeks before opening is important!

    As for using the pickles, I added some to a baked chicken and rice dish and it worked really well! I can think of all kinds of dishes I'll add these too.

    I confess I did drink the brine and it's yummy! I also mixed some of the brine with cream cheese and had it on crackers- quite good!