Preserved Lemons


Preserving lemons is easy to do yourself and it's especially convenient if your local market doesn't carry them. You only need 2 ingredients (coarse sea salt and organic, unwaxed lemons) and a clean pint-size glass jar to store them in.

This recipe does need to be made a month in advance but, once the lemons are ready, they will last for a year in your fridge. Make them now, while citrus is still in season, so they'll be ready whenever you are.

6 small organic, unwaxed lemons
5 tablespoons coarse sea salt

Wash a pint-size jar and matching lid in hot, soapy water and dry it thoroughly.

Cut 3 of the lemons lengthwise in quarters and remove any visible seeds. Transfer them to a mixing bow. Toss the lemon wedges with the salt until they are thoroughly coated.

Carefully spoon the lemon wedges into the clean jar, packing them tightly and distributing the extra salt evenly throughout. Sprinkle any salt leftover in the bowl on top of the lemons.

Reserve the lemon zest from the remaining lemons for another purpose (put it in your next cup of tea or dry it for a spice rub). Squeeze the lemon juice, strain out any seeds, and pour the juice over the salted lemons to cover them completely. If need be, place a glass or ceramic weight on top to keep them submerged (like a small ramekin you would use for a dipping sauce or tea bag).

Cover the jar tightly and transfer it to a dark spot at room temperature. Once a day for the first week, turn the jar over, shake it gently for a few seconds to redistribute the salt throughout the jar, then turn it back up.

After one week, prepare another very clean pint-size glass jar. Strain the lemons and reserve the liquid. Transfer the lemon wedges, which should be softer and more malleable now, to the clean jar, arranging and packing them tightly together. Pour the reserved liquid over the top, making sure they are submerged (use a ceramic weight if you have to). Set the jar aside again, in a dark spot at room temperature, and leave it undisturbed for 3 more weeks.

To use the preserved lemons, remove and discard the seeds. Most people also discard the flesh, but I usually don't. I think that the flesh tastes good and I see no reason to throw it away. I recommend tasting it first and if you like it, chop and use the whole wedge. If you don't like it, discard the fruit and chop only the lemon rind.

If the lemons are too salty for you, rinse off the preserving liquid and soak the wedges in water if need be. (The longer you soak them, the more salt will be drawn out.)

When you cook with preserved lemons, take the extra saltiness into account and skip adding any other salt to dishes until you taste them at the end of cooking. Remember that you can always add salt later but you can't take it out.