Preserved lemons have been used in recipes for centuries. They are commonly used in Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes, as well as those made by people following the Primal lifestyle or the Weston A. Price lifestyle. They are made using salt and their own juices, and have a powerfully lemony, salty flavor.
It’s best to use organic, un-waxed lemons, because the end product has you eating the rind. Meyer lemons are slightly smaller and milder than the regular variety, so if you have access to Meyers, use them. Otherwise, regular lemons will work fine. Wash them very well before you begin.
- 8-10 Meyer lemons, or 6-8 regular lemons
- ½ cup sea salt
- freshly squeezed lemon juice as needed
- quart lemon jar
Drop 2 tablespoons of salt in the bottom of the jar.
Prepare your lemons: cut off any stems that remain, an as well as ¼ inch off the protruding portion. Next, slice through the lemons lengthwise (starting at the end where you cut off ¼ inch) but don’t go all the way through. Turn the lemon 90 degrees and make another cut as if you are going to cut the lemon into quarters, but not all the way through. Your lemon should be attached at the base.
Keep any juice that escapes.
Pull the lemons open and sprinkle salt on the insides and outsides of each one. Be generous with the salt, this is what preserves them.
Pack the lemons down into the jar, squishing them as you go. You want their juices to come out to cover the lemons. Fill the jar, and press them down again. This is where you may add additional flavorings, like peppercorns, cinnamon, coriander seeds, or cloves.
Top with a couple of tablespoons of salt.
Seal the jar. If the lemons are not completely covered in juices by the second day (more juice will escape in the first day), top them off with extra freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Now you have to let them sit on your counter for 30 days until they are soft. Shake the jar once in a while to distribute the juice and salt.
When they are done, place the jar in the fridge. They will keep up to six months if they are refrigerated.
When you want to use a lemon, take one out of the juice and rinse all the salt off it. Discard the seeds and scrape the pulp out to use in dressing. Slice the rind as your recipe requires.
Some dishes that use preserved lemons are lemon pepper dishes (fish or chicken), Moroccan salmon, the broth for mussels or clams, and chick pea tangine.
If you need to tone down the flavor of the lemons, just give them a quick blanch for 30 seconds.