Although many recipes abound for salt-preserved lemons, there are less for other citrus like oranges and grapefruit. However, the process is essentially the same. The only difference is that while lemons and limes in salt also need (or at least benefit from) additional lemon or lime juice added, oranges or other citrus with a higher pH than lemons/limes need juice of lemon or lime added rather than to be submerged in their own juice, which isn’t quite acidic enough to reliably preserve.
It is best to allow preserved citrus to sit at room temperature for a minimum of a month, and two or three months is even better.
This particular recipe using satsumas was a jar I put together I call “Paradise Preserved.” It is Satsumas preserved with salt, sugar, lemon & lime juice, with added ginger and grains of paradise. This flavor combo was a knockout, but remember the more flavors you add up front like this, the trade-off is it might not meld with some other dishes.
Although preserved citrus may sound tasty, you may be wondering what in the world you can do with preserved citrus. There really are so many options, I’ll just name a few here: blend a couple satsumas (flesh, peel and all) with a cup of homemade mayonnaise or aioli for a bright citrus dressing, spread, or dip (hello calamari!); use it as the acid to make epic ceviche (photo below), guacamole, and cole slaw. Add the brine or fruit to fermented hot sauce; marinate chicken or other meat in the brine; add the brine to soup or salad dressing; chop it and skillet roast with chicken or fish; and so much more.
The recipe provided here uses 5 lbs. of Satsuma oranges, but this exact recipe can be followed swapping out the Satsumas for any other type of citrus. Satsumas are a variety of mandarin oranges, closely related to tangerines and clementines. They are the juiciest in their family and have a sweet-yet-tart flavor that makes them delicious on their own or used in savory dishes and desserts.
Although this isn’t a lacto-ferment recipe (explained further below), if you’re familiar with lacto-fermentation – which is what this site is primarily about – you may see some similar activity. At the beginning, the salt/lemon-juice brine may get bubbly due to lactobacillus bacteria consuming sugars and converting it to CO2 and lactic acid. For this reason, I use an airlock, but it isn’t really required, if you are agitating and burping the jar periodically in the beginning. I included a few of the Satsuma leaves in the jar, which can contain much lactobacillus and created even more metabolic activity.
However, due to the very low starting pH and extremely salty environment (well over 10%, which is the threshold for lactobacillus to develop and survive), these fermentation “symptoms” will end in a number of days or weeks rather than the usual months you’d find in a normal lacto-ferment.
With no further ado, here is the recipe. It is for 5 lbs. of satsumas in a gallon container, but you can modify quantities for a smaller (or larger) vessel.
You will need:
- Knife & cutting board
- Large mixing bowl
- Gallon extra-wide-mouth fermenter
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Citrus juicer (recommended)
- Fermentation weight (recommended)
- Mortar & pestle (or spice grinder) for grains of paradise (or other hard spices)
- 5 lbs. Satsumas (or other chosen citrus)
- 1.5 cups salt
- 1/2 cup sugar (optional but helps enhance the natural sweetness of Satsumas)
- Juice of 8 lemons or limes (I used a mix)
- Large nub or two fingers of ginger, sliced (~100g)
- 2 TBSP Grains of paradise, coarsely crushed (~8-10g), or finely ground for a stronger flavor, which was my method in these photos (using a spice grinder)
1.) Cut an “X” into each Satsuma or piece of citrus, going down about 3/4 of the way to the bottom.
2.) In the mixing bowl, begin packing all the Satsumas with salt, particularly on the inside where you made the cuts. Try to retain at least 1/2 cup of the salt for later.
3.) Once the Satsumas are thoroughly packed in the salt, add the sugar, sliced ginger, and grains of paradise, and mix thoroughly in the bowl.
4.) In the fermenter, add a layer of the Satsumas, followed by a sprinkling of salt. Continue to add layers, followed by a sprinkling of salt, until all the Satsumas and salt have been placed in the fermenter. Any remaining salt, sugar, and ginger slices from the mixing bowl can be added to the jar as well.
5.) Juice the lemons and/or limes, and pour into the fermenter.
6.) Press the Satsumas down in an attempt to submerge them in the juice. Since they will also release their own juice over the next day or so, you don’t need to have them fully submerged yet.
7.) Allow the Satsumas to sit at room temperature overnight. The next day, if they are not fully submerged in brine, unseal the jar and press down on the fruit firmly and evenly again. (If needed, repeat the step the following day.) Use of a fermentation weight or two in the jar may assist here, and they can be left in through the course of the preserving process.
8.) Allow to sit at room temperature for 1-3 months. The flavor will be developd best at about two months onward.
Notes: The Satsumas will stay good in the brine for months if not years, when stored in a refrigerator and fully submerged. I have a year-old batch that is unchanged flavor and appearance wise (shown below). It does not need to be stored in a refrigerator until you begin opening it for use, though it certainly won’t hurt.