I first tried preserved lemons last spring in San Francisco and loved them immediately. What attracted me to preserved lemons was finally having a new recipe to help me use the dozens upon dozens of lemons our trees produce every year. I love limoncello, who doesn’t, but we make it every year. I’m always racking my brain to come up with a new way to use our lemons and I love the idea of preserving them in salt so they can be used in savory recipes.
Preserved lemons, with their salty lemon flavor, are a perfect addition to savory recipes like tagines, potato salads and more.
Ingredients & Special Equipment
Lemons, untreated, 1 1/2 kilograms (3 1/3 pounds or 53 ounces)
Sea salt, unrefined, 1/2 kilogram (18 ounces)
Glass jars and lids, or mason jars; each jar will hold three to five lemons
Bay leaves, fresh, three per jar, optional
Cinnamon sticks, two to three per jar, optional
Black peppercorns, eight per jar, optional
Fresh squeezed lemon juice, as needed
- Trim the ends off the lemons without cutting into the flesh.
- Slice the lemons from the top as if to quarter them, to about 1 1/4 centimeters (1/2 inch) from the bottom.
- Sprinkle the inside of the lemons with a tablespoon or more of salt then place in a jar.
- Sprinkle with more salt and use a wooden spoon to smash the lemon down.
- Repeat this process with each lemon, one by one, until the jar is full. Be sure to sprinkle generously with salt after each addition.
- Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and peppercorns after each lemon, if desired, to give the lemons some additional flavor.
- Smash down the lemons before sealing the jar.
- The following day, add another lemon and more salt to the jar.
- Smash the lemon down and close the jar.
- On the third day, if the lemons have softened enough and there’s sufficient space in the jar, add another lemon and more salt.
- By now the lemons will probably have leached off enough juice to fully cover the lemons. If not, add enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to cover them.
- Allow the lemons to ferment at room temperature for about a month. As long as the lemons remain fully covered in juice there is no need to refrigerate them.
Preserved lemons can be kept up to two years, as long as they remain fully covered in lemon juice; after six months you can keep the preserved lemons refrigerated although it’s not strictly necessary.
When you’re ready to use preserved lemons in a recipe, scrape out all the pulp & fruit and discard; use the remaining peel for your recipe. Keep the fermentation liquid to cover the remaining lemons.
When you finish a jar of lemons the fermentation liquid can be used for cooking or in salad dressings.
Are you wondering how you’ll use your preserved lemons? If you’re a lemon lover, as we are, just think of anything savory that you love where a lemon flavor would be a great addition. I love grilled cheddar cheese sandwiches and decided preserved lemon would be a great addition to this classic. Give it a try: it’s scrumptious!