- Food & Drink
Back in January my employers got in boatloads of bergamots and I ran a little mad with them. I made bergamot curd, bergamot cake, and no glass of water was complete without a slice of bergamot. Bergamot, bergamot, bergamot. Everything was bergamot. But what would I do when the bergamots ran out?
I needed to preserve some. And since bergamots are a bit like lemons, then salting them would surely work.
I’ve never preserved lemons before. I’m quite impatient when it comes to food. If I’m making something, then I want to eat it NOW. No cake gets made without at least two tablespoons of batter ending up in my mouth. Yes, I am that keen to get on with the eating bit. So, preserves that need to sit somewhere for a few months are low on my list. But with the stores of bergamots rapidly dwindling, I was galvanised and began sterilising jars.
My first stop on the How To Preserve Bergamots Tour was Claudia Roden. You can rely on Claudia Roden to cut through the nonsense and get to the heart of how to do something well. Her preserved lemon recipe was admirable in its brevity: take lemons and salt, combine and store.
However, I am often at home to nonsense and novelty. A scan of the internet brought up this Epicurious recipe for preserved lemons, which included a few spices in the brine to give a ‘Moroccan’ flavour. Seemed like a good idea. In they went. I also ended up using a mix of plain and smoked sea salt. This wasn’t by design. I just didn’t have enough plain salt in the house. Didn’t do any harm.
I started the process on the 17th January. Last week I opened them up and tried a slice of one of the bergamot wedges. It had sharp, floral flavour. A little like eating solid orange flower water. I have a few recipe ideas in mind (oxtail and preserved bergamot stew is now a high priority dinner) and will share them if they turn out well.
Preserved Bergamots with Plain & Smoked Sea Salt
Makes 1 x 1 750ml jar
9 tbsp sea salt (approximately)
7 tbsp smoked sea salt (approximately)
1 cinnamon stick
6 coriander seeds
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Juice of 4 bergamots
Extra virgin olive oil, to cover
Sterilise a jar and tip 1 tbsp plain sea salt into it. Give the bergamots a scrub and slice each one into quarters, but not cutting all the way through so they still hold together. Stuff 1/2 tbsp salt (both sorts, or just use all plain if you prefer) into each cut, lightly pressing the cut closed. Pack them closely into the jar, adding the spices in as you layer them up.
Leave the jar on the side for 4-6 days, then add in the fresh bergamot juice to cover the bergamots. Top up with olive oil, making sure everything is sunk in oil and brine, and keep somewhere cool for at least 1 month before using. To juice, slice into quarters, scrape out and discard the flesh. Rinse the skin before using it.