Monday, November 8, 2010

Preserved Lemons

You all know how productive my lemon tree is this year.  I bet there are 50+ lemons on my tree waiting to be picked and made into something delicious.  And that's one of the biggest reasons I garden (besides the sheer love of it):  To use what I grow in interesting and tasty dishes; and hopefully to pass on a recipe or two to anyone interested in trying something new.  

Salt preserved lemons are a unique and delicious way to use organic lemons.  Although a bit unusual, there are many ways to use this savory treat.  Think of them like candied lemons, only cured with salt instead of sugar.

Salt preserved lemons are staples of Moroccan cooking.  They are difficult to find in grocery stores and you usually have to seek out a specialty store to find them.  That's why when I have an abundance of lemons, I simply prefer to make my own.  Even though they require a three-week wait to cure, they're worth it.  It's best to use smaller lemons for this recipe, about 2-3 inches long because they fit more neatly in a one-pint jar.  And since you'll be eating the peel, it's best to buy organic lemons that you know are free of any harmful sprays, which I'm proud to say mine are :)

Salt Preserved Lemons
Adapted from Molly Stevens, All About Braising
The ingredient list is really very simple

3-5 small organic lemons (about 4 ounces each)
2/3 freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3-4 small lemons)
1/4 cup coarse salt

Wash a wide-mouth 1-pint glass jar and lid in very hot soapy water.  Rinse well.  Leave them to dry upside down on a clean towel.

Rinse the lemons and scrub them with a vegetable brush.  If the lemons aren't organic, you may want to use a little dish detergent to remove any pesticide residue.  Rinse well.  Cut the lemons into quarters and place them in a glass bowl.  Add the salt and toss the lemons with a rubber spatula to coat them with the salt.

With impeccably clean hands, arrange about half of the lemon quarters in the jar, compacting them as best you can.  After you've fitted half the lemon quarters in the jar, sprinkle over some of the salt from the bottom of the bowl,

then fill the jar with the remaining lemon quarters.  When all the lemons are in the jar, use a rubber spatula to scrape the remaining salt from the bowl into the jar.

Pour enough lemon juice to cover the lemons, leaving about 1/2 inch head-space.  Wipe the rim with a damp paper towel.  Screw the lid tightly.

Set the jar in a dark cupboard to pickle for at least three weeks.  Turn the jar every 10 days or so to redistribute the salt and let it sit for a few hours, then turn the jar upright again.

To use the preserved lemons, pull a lemon quarter from the jar with, again...impeccably clean fingers, or tongs.  Rinse under cool water and slide off the pulp.  Use only the pickled peel.  Once you've opened the jar, store the lemons in the fridge for up to 1 year.

OK, you say, what "to do" with the preserved lemons?  Well, as soon as they are ready, I plan to make this fabulous braised dish, Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives and Preserved Lemons, and is it ever delicious.  Stay tuned, I'll post that recipe when I make the dish.  It's a perfect fall Sunday supper.  And there are other things to do with the preserved lemons that I'll continue to post as I make the dishes.

If you have an abundance of lemons on your tree or have the opportunity to buy some organic ones at your local farmer's market, I encourage you to try this unique culinary treat.  I doubt you'll be disappointed.


  1. Even though I know it would make me cringe and flail my arms in horror... I'm still tempted to stick one of those preserved lemon slices right into my mouth! I love lemons and I love salt, but I'm sure I should resist the urge and try a recipe with olives to use them in instead. Your lemons sure turned out gorgeous!

    I'd love it if you'd consider submitting your viola post to the blog carnival I'm hosting. The variety you blogged about is so pretty! Here's the link to the carnival:

  2. Thanks Eliza! I just submitted the link. You really should try the preserved lemons. They are delicious and easy!

    Thanks for stopping by!