Like many other easy/exquisite homemade condiments to keep on hand during the summer, preserved clementines have the power to make lazy weeknight dinners seem like something extra special, and I am all about lazy weeknight dinners whenever the temperature rises past 85 degrees. When my body has devoted so much of its energy to sweating and complaining, how can I possibly muster the strength to make the sort of dinner I feel I deserve? Instead, I let impressive condiments do all the heavy lifting when I can barely lift a finger.
First off, an important note: if you make these preserved clementines today (which you should), it will be four long weeks before you can enjoy them. The wait will, at times, be excruciating. Whenever you cobble together a whatever’s-in-the-fridge salad, you’ll think about how much better it would taste with some finely chopped preserved clementines. When you sip an ice-cold drink, you’ll wonder if a preserved clementine wedge or two could turn it into the sort of fancy beverage that’s best sipped on yachts. You’ll realize that even the laziest of all dinners—a thick wedge of cheese eaten with your hands—would feel closer to a four-star experience with a few slivers of pickled clementine on top.
But be patient! Keep those clementines in the fridge and hide them from view behind a fortress of pickle jars and barbecue sauces. In a few weeks’ time you’ll notice a vibrant orange glow peeking between bottles like a rising sun and you’ll realize the wait was worth it.
Preserved clementines can last up to a year in the fridge, but I doubt it will take you that long to finish your first jar. In fact, these might actually get you excited about the nights when it’s too hot to cook.
- 1 (5-lb.) bag clementines, well rinsed under hot tap water
- Kosher salt
- 2" piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
- 6-8 star anise pods
- 1½ Tbsp. whole black or Sichuan peppercorns
Put a tablespoon or so of kosher salt in the bottom of a clean 16-ounce glass jar along with two star anise pods, a few slices of ginger, and about one-quarter of the peppercorns.
Place twelve whole clementines stem side down on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to almost quarter them, stopping about ½” from the bottom so the clementines stay together. Gently part them open and sprinkle the insides with a generous pinch of kosher salt, then push them back together.
Put four clementines into the jar, add another pod of star anise, some ginger, some peppercorns, and two generous pinches of kosher salt (about 2 teaspoons). Repeat three more times, pressing down hard each time to compact the clementines and squeeze out some of their juices.
If there is still room in the jar, score and salt as many clementines as you think might fit and jam them in there, tucking any remaining star anise, ginger, and peppercorns in between—you want the jar to be full and tightly packed. Press hard on the top layer; if enough clementine juice rises to the top to fully submerge them, you’re good; if not, squeeze fresh juice from remaining clementines into the jar until covered completely. (Note: you will probably not use all five pounds of clementines.)
Seal the jar tightly and store in the back of the refrigerator for at least four weeks for the salt to work its magic; once the clementines are preserved, they’ll last for about a year, and will continue to improve with age. Before using, rinse gently under warm water to remove excess salt.