Preserved Lemons

There’s nothing better than a homemade holiday gift, especially one that keeps giving and giving throughout the year. Jams, pie fillings, cookie mixes — all of these are fun to make and wonderful gifts, but if you have a group of friends who love to cook more savory items, you should give preserved lemons a try this year! This fermented pickle is simple to make, requires only a few ingredients, and will keep in the fridge for around six months, if you or your gift recipient don’t use them up well before then.

Preserved Lemons

Once you have a jar of preserved lemons in your fridge, you’ll never want to go without again. If you’ve ever had a really good Moroccan tagine and have wondered where that sharp, salty, citrus taste comes from — it’s preserved lemons. A little goes a long way towards adding a bolt of salty sunshine into any savory dish. Just remove the seeds and mince the rind and flesh to add citrusy flavor to grain salads, beans, stews, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

Spices used in this recipe


Salt, Kosher
Peppercorns, Tellicherry, Grinder
Fennel Seed
Chili Peppers, Crushed
Rosemary, Cut & Sifted
Bay Leaves
Cardamom, Green Whole
Cumin Seed
Star Anise
Cinnamon Sticks

Ingredients

Preparation

  1. If you weren’t able to get unwaxed lemons, first remove the wax. Place the lemons in a large colander and run them under hot water, either from a recently boiled kettle or from the hottest tap water you have. Then, holding each lemon under cool running water, use a vegetable brush to scrub away the warmed wax and any dirt that remains. Rinse the scrubbed lemons well. If you have unwaxed fruit, simply give them a rinse and scrub to remove any dirt.
  2. Trim the stem ends of the washed lemons by about ⅛-¼ inch. Cut 4 lemons into quarters, cutting them end to end to form four wedges.
  3. Rinse a glass quart jar for which you have a lid. Sprinkle about one third of the salt into the bottom and pack for of the lemon quarters into the jar, pressing with your hands or with a cocktail muddler to get them as tightly packed as possible. Sprinkle another third of the salt and a pinch of your chosen spices on top of the packed lemons.
  4. Pack another quartered lemon into the jar and sprinkle with remaining salt and another pinch of spices. Continue to pack quartered lemons into the jar until only ½ and inch of space remains between the lemons and the top.
  5. The lemons will have exuded some juice during the packing process, but it might not yet be enough to cover them. If your lemons are not covered by their own juices, juice your remaining lemons and pour the juice into the jar until it just covers the lemons, leaving about half an inch of space between the juice and the top.
  6. Screw the lid onto the jar and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to mix the salt and lemons. Unscrew the lid and top up with more lemon juice to return levels to half an inch below the top if necessary. Screw the top on again.
  7. Using masking tape, label the jar with the day’s date. Store the lemons in a cool, dark space for two weeks. Every day for the first few days, shake the jar vigorously for 30 seconds or so, until the salt has completely dissolved. Shake occasionally in the remaining days, just to make sure that the spices and juices are evenly distributed throughout.
  8. After two weeks, place the jar in the refrigerator. The lemons are now ready to use! Make sure to remove the seeds before using, and to rinse the lemons if you want to reduce their very salty flavor.

Makes 1 pint. Lemons will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.

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