Preserved lemons are one of those pantry staples I was told I just had to have but never did. It took me years to try them, but after my first taste, I was hooked. Mildly tart and intensely lemony, they add a deep earthy note to everything from salads to stews.
Preserved lemons are traditionally North African, but don’t let that limit you. The soft, pickled lemons can be used anywhere you would use capers or olives – really in any dish that would benefit from a citrusy, salty boost. Stir some of the chopped rind into aioli, crispy potatoes, or sautéed greens. Blend the pulp into your morning Bloody Mary, favorite vinaigrette, or pan sauce.
The flavor will enhance your dishes in a way that fresh lemons can’t, and if you have 15 minutes, you can make your own.
The technique is simple. Lemons get quartered and packed with salt in a large jar to create a brine. Then, the lemons are left to ferment for several weeks until the rinds are soft, mildly tart, and intensely lemony.
The lemons don’t need refrigeration and last up to a year. The flavor will change over time, so if you want to preserve the flavor at any point, simply transfer to the refrigerator.
What worked: Quick, easy and made with readily available ingredients.
What didn’t: Nada.
Know this: Be sure to cover the lemons completely with the salted lemon juice to properly preserve the lemons.
- 3 to 4 small lemons – Meyer lemons work best
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves
- 4 black peppercorns
- 5 coriander seeds
- fresh lemon juice – if necessary
- Special Equipment: Sterilized mason jar
Boil the lemons in water for 2 or 3 minutes and allow them to cool before squeezing to maximize the amount of juice.
Slice the ends off of each lemon and then quarter them from the top leaving about 1/2-inch of the bottom intact. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt inside the cavity of each lemon, then reshape the fruit.
Put 1 teaspoon of salt on the bottom of a sterilized* mason jar. Pack one lemon into the jar, cut-side down pressing down hard to release its juices and to make room for the remaining lemons. Put a teaspoon of salt and spices on top of the first lemon and pack in another lemon. Pack with the third lemon topping it off with another teaspoon of salt. If the juice released from the smashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice to cover. Leave some air before sealing the jar.
Let the lemons ripen in a warm place for 30 days, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. To use, remove and lightly rinse peel to remove some of the salt, and then slice or dice however you want. Preserved lemons will keep up to a year.
Note: To sterilize a mason jar, place it in a large pot of boiling for 10 minutes, then remove with tongs.