Turning vegan with a resolve to eat mostly whole food, I marked those early days with hunts for plant-based sources of umami that was borderline obsessive. Inevitably it led me to fermentation. Some fermented foods are known for their deep savory and complex flavors, as the microbes break down the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. This, in turn, releases those flavor and aromatic compounds.
Happily in my search, I stumbled upon preserved lemons (among many other fermented umami sources, which we share here at Starter Sisters). A staple in Moroccan and North African cuisines, preserved lemons are lemons cured in salt for at least a month. The fermentation draws out the bitterness from the lemon peel, which is the one used in recipes. They enliven dishes with their bright citrus fragrance and punchy salty tartness. It’s the thing to reach for when you want a deep and distinct lemon flavor and aroma without the sourness from the juice.
Being Pinoy, I knew I needed to try the technique on our calamansi. It is more affordable and easier to find compared to unwaxed lemons. The technique is pretty much the same, but the fermentation period is shorter given calamansi is smaller in size versus lemons.
Salt and fresh juice top up tips
Burong kalamansi, much like other preserved citruses, can last a long time if made properly. Remember to also use sanitary utensils each time you pluck one out from your jar. The large amount of sea salt along with the acidity from all that citrus juice effectively crowds out any potential pathogen. (You can find more tips on how to have a successful home ferment, here.) When making preserved citrus, some recommend using at least 10% salt. I normally don’t weigh the salt, but I tend to salt heavily so I am assured that it meets, if not exceeds, the minimum proportion of salt needed.
Like a lot of ferments, it’s important to keep the citruses submerged in their juice; top up with additional freshly squeezed citrus juice when needed. Do not top up with water, which dilutes the acidic environment and can introduce mold to your ferment. Do not use citrus juice sold in cans or boxes either. We want fresh citrus juice for top ups.
Where to use preserved calamansi
Much like preserved lemons, I’ve used the peel of preserved calamansi in lugaw, salad dressings, mint and parsley relish, soda water, fried rice, grain salads, creamy pasta, nut pesto, bean stews, and roasted vegetables.
I hope you give this preserved calamansi recipe a try, and that it inspires you to try other local organic citruses like dalandan, satsuma, dalanghita, dalayap! Add herbs like makrut lime or bay leaves or spices like peppercorns, whole coriander, cloves, nutmeg, paprika, etc.
- 500 grams calamansi (green, not ripe)
- 50 grams sea salt (not iodized)
1. Wash the calamansi and let air dry. While waiting, add a layer of salt to the bottom of your jar.
2. Once ready, slice into quarters but make sure you do not cut all the way through to the base.
3. Put salt inside the calamansi and place inside the jar. Repeat while pressing the limes to make sure they release their juices.
4. Add weight to keep everything submerged and seal with an airtight lid.
5. Set on the counter to ferment for at least 4 weeks. Top up with extra calamansi juice to make sure they remain submerged throughout the curing period.
6. To use your preserved calamansi, pluck one (or two or three) from the jar using a clean fork or tongs, never with your hands. Rinse and remove the seeds and the pulp, which is very salty, and use the peel according to the recipe.
You can try adding it to the fried rice, because it adds a note of citrus flavor and brightness without the sourness. Find the recipe, here.