Recipe: Preserved Lemons

Published on: January 7th, 2019

Preserved lemons are a great, handy condiment to have on hand. While they are best known as an ingredient in North African tagines, they can give lots of dishes that little something extra. Use them in pasta, sauces, and anywhere else that calls for savory lemon flavor, like salads, fried seafood, or potatoes.

You can buy preserved lemons from specialty retailers, but they're very simple to make and a great way to use lemons while they're in season. It just requires a little patience and a pile of lemons.

It's actually kind of an amazing process. The lemon's peel and pith is transformed by the action of salt, the fruit's own acidic juices, and time. It looses all of its tough texture and bitter flavor and becomes tender, succulent lemony-ness.

Be sure to wash the lemons thoroughly, as the exterior peel will be rendered edible by the curing process.

It helps to have a jar with "shoulders" to help keep lemons below the surface of the opening. The jar you use also needs a tight-fitting lid.

NOTE: the quantities of ingredients needed depend on how big your jar is. You'll also need a few extra lemons for their juice.

Ingredients (see note above on quantities)

A large jar with a tight-fitting lid
Kosher salt
A few black pepper corns
A few whole coriander berries
Bay leaf

Wash the lemons.

Cut the lemons as though you were quartering them length-wise, but don't cut all the way: leave them connected at the stem end, so that the resulting fruit is one piece with four lobes.

After it's cut, open the lemon and fill the inside cut surfaces with a layer of kosher salt. Then place the lemon in the jar.

Continue until the jar is packed full. As you add lemons to the jar, you'll end up compressing the ones already in there, which will squeeze our their juice. This is part of the process.

When the jar is jam-packed with lemons, add the pepper, coriander, and bay leaf, and enough freshly squeezed juice from extra lemons to fill the jar to rim. Tightly close the lid.

Keep the jar in a cool dark place for about a month. Afterwards, keep refrigerated until you've used them all up.

To use, rinse a lemon in cold water to remove some of the excess saltiness. Then chop and add to your dish.

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