I’m hesitant to even call this a recipe since you pretty much are cramming some lemons and salt in a jar, but it does create one of my favorite condiments, preserved lemons. They add in a ton of flavor to any dish they’re in and it’s a very specific flavor. You’ll know it if you’ve ever had Moroccan or Middle-Eastern food. They’re lemony and cured with a slightly sour note in there. It’s very different from a fresh lemon, but you still know it’s lemon. It’s the equivalent of how sauerkraut tastes like cabbage, but not at all like fresh cabbage.
Making preserved lemons uses the same fermentation method as sauerkraut in that you’re developing lactobacillus, good bacteria, to create the fermenting environment and to keep mold, and any other pathogens you don’t want, from growing in there. The environment is intensely acidic and salty, perfect home for your new little lactobacilli.
The best part about making these is it takes all of 5 minutes of actual work on your end, and then you just wait a few weeks. Once the waiting time is up, you are rewarded with a substantial jar of preserved lemons that will last a good while and if you’re like me, it just gives you an excuse to make a myriad of dishes using them. One of my favorite is grilled fish with preserved lemon and pomegranate sauce. That’ll be up soon…
It’s very different from a fresh lemon, but you still know it’s lemon. It’s the equivalent of how sauerkraut tastes like cabbage, but not at all like fresh cabbage.
These are easily available at most specialty stores, or if you’re lucky like us, you’ll have them at your local Whole Foods. And while they are pretty good, they can be very expensive, especially when compared to the equivalent cost of the lemons and salt you need to make them yourself. I make them in small batches, and they last me a few weeks till I need to make more, but if you love em, feel free to make them en masse. Live on the edge a little.
a little effort, for a lot of flavor
- 4-6 lemons – washed well and remove the ends
- 1/4 – 1/2c salt – just salt, make sure there is nothing else in there, no anticaking agents, no iodine, NOTHING.
Optional seasonings: these are all totally optional, feel free to use whatever you like, or don’t use any at all
- 8 or so whole cloves
- Small pinch of whole peppercorns
- 1 chili pepper
- 1 cinnamon stick
As I mentioned before this recipe is super simple and takes all of 5 mins to prep and then about 3 weeks of patiently waiting for them to cure.
First step is to make sure you have a very clean jar to start with. You want a canning style one, so any CO2 gas that gets created can easily escape out of the lid. Then you want to clean your lemons, and chili pepper if you’re using one. And be sure to trim off the ends. This just helps to make sure that no bad bacteria or unwanted mold starts growing in there.
Next, you want to quarter your lemons almost all the way through, try to leave one end still intact. It just makes it easier to stuff the center of the lemon with salt and then kinda close it back up, and shove the whole lemon in your jar.
Add a big pinch of salt to the bottom of your jar, then take your lemons and stuff them with salt, about a tablespoon each. The measurement isn’t too exact, you just want to make sure they’re generously covered in salt. Then stuff ‘em on in your jar and push them down to release some of their juice. If you’re using them, scatter your spices in there too. Once your jar is filled up as much as you can with with lemons add the juice of another lemon if you need it. When you screw on the lid, you want to try and have as little air as possible. Next, turn your jar upside down and shake a little to get any extra salt dissolved and incorporated amongst your lemons. Don’t worry if you still have a bunch of undissolved salt sitting at the bottom. It’ll dissolve over time.
Then all you need to do is place your jar in a cool, darkish spot and wait. You occasionally wanna check on it, make sure no weird mold stuff is happening, and if the liquid level goes down drastically, as the lemons settle, top it off with some more fresh lemon juice. You want to wait around 3-4 weeks.
When you’ve finished waiting and are ready to use those lemons, just pop open the jar, pull out a lemon and slice off the amount you want to use. You want to rinse it to remove any excess salt, and cut out the fruity inside stuff. You really only want to use the skin. It has the most flavor, the fruit bit just tends to be overly salty.
Store your finished jar of preserved lemons in the fridge and maybe start on a new batch depending on how fast your think you’ll use them!