Chopped up, it can be added to all sorts of pilafs and braised vegetable dishes. Or make a refreshing drink by muddling a couple in the bottom of a glass, then topping it off with ice and sparkling water. I'm sure you'll find even more ways to use them before your first batch runs out; they keep in the fridge for months.
Makes: 1 quart
Time: 20 minutes plus 2 weeks to cure
• About 3 pounds lemons, preferably unwaxed, quartered lengthwise
• About 3/4 cup kosher salt
• Half 3-inch cinnamon stick
• 2 or 3 cloves
• 1 star anise
• 2 or 3 black peppercorns
• 2 cardamom pods
• 1 bay leaf
1. Fill a 1-quart canning jar with boiling water and soak its lid in boiling water too. Let the water sit while you cut the lemons, then dump the water out.
2. Sprinkle a 1/4-inch-deep layer of salt across the bottom of the jar. Nestle a layer of quartered lemons into the bottom of the jar, sprinkle liberally with salt, then repeat, adding the spices as you go. Stop when the jar is about three-quarters full and squeeze the remaining lemons into the jar—seeds and all—so that the fruit is completely submerged in the lemon juice—and—salt brine. (If you don't have enough lemons on hand, top the lemons off with freshly squeezed juice no later than the following day.)
3. Set the jar out on a counter and vigorously shake it once a day for 7 to 10 days—during this time it will start to bubble a little, and the dried spices will swell back to their original size. (You'll be surprised at the size of the cloves!)
4. Put the jar in the refrigerator and let the lemons continue to cure for another week before using. (The lemons will keep for at least 2 months in the refrigerator, though you'll probably want to get into them sooner.) When they have cured, unscrew the lid—after a moment, they should smell sweet and citrusy—an ammonia smell means they've gone wrong somewhere along the line.
5. To use in stews, blanch the quarter lemons in unsalted boiling water for 10 seconds, just long enough to leach out a little of the salt. For salads or quick-cooked dishes, scrape the flesh away from the peel, discard the flesh, and blanch the peel in unsalted boiling water.