Preserved Lemons – A Tradition in Moroccan, Mediterranean and Indian Cuisine

I’ve been longing for preserved lemons and their uniquely intense flavor for months now.  What a wonderful flash of zing!  What a refreshing, piquant, tart highlight to bring simple dishes alive!

You will find recipes using preserved lemons from Northern Africa, the Middle East, from India and even in some Caribbean cuisines.  They are extremely easy to make, too!

Step One:  Gather up your ingredients.  You’ll need fresh, organic lemons.  Pick ones that look good and don’t have a lot of blemishes.  You may choose Meyer lemons or regular ones.  Wash these thoroughly.  You’ll also need course sea salt.  Do not use regular commercial salt as this has additives and it is too harsh for this use.  You’ll also need a clean jar in which to put your lemons while they preserve.  I chose a Kerr one-quart jar with  tight-fitting two piece top.  You can also use the kind of jar with the rubber seal in which the lid clips on.  Some recipes I saw online recommend sterilizing the jar first but most do not.

You need lemons, course sea salt, a jar and of course a good sharp knife and a cutting board.

Step Two:  Hold the lemons stem-side up and cut them into quarters but without going all the way through the lemon.  You want to end up with a lemon that is quartered and can open like a flower, but is still all in one piece.  If you have a good, sharp knife this is easy.  And to make it even easier, you can place the lemon between two wooden spoon handles or anything else wooden that will stop your knife from going all the way through the lemon. And, should you accidentally cut all the way through the lemon . . . no worries!  Just carry on and use those pieces too.

The wooden spoon handles prevent the knife from slicing all the way through.

Step Three:  Salt those babies!  Open the lemon up and generously salt each cut surface with course sea salt.  You don’t need to rub it in or do anything else to it.  But, you can experiment with adding other spices and herbs to your salt and mixing them in before you salt your lemons.  Hmmm, what about coriander, fennel, cloves, cinnamon stick, peppercorn, bay leaf . . .?

Thoroughly salt the lemon surfaces with course sea salt.

Step Four:  Close up the salted lemons and pack them as tightly as possible into your jar.  Fill the jar with spring water and secure the lid.  The lemons will take about thirty days to preserve and then they will last for a year or more.  I have my jar sitting right on my kitchen table because I think it looks beautiful and I enjoy the anticipation of all the wonderful recipes I’ll come up with when they’re ready to use.  (And I’ll be sharing those with you, my friend!)

Close the lemons and pack them into the jar tightly.

Add spring water, seal the lid and wait thirty days.