Preserved Lemons

These are fantastic and they take a bit of patience. As in, waiting a month until they’re done. After they’re preserved, they’ll last from one to two years. (That’s right. You read it correctly. Two years.)

So what exactly is a preserved lemon and why do I make them instead of buying them? To answer the second question first, I’m cheap. I said it.  I’m not afraid to admit that I like to save buck or two where I can. To buy 12 oz. of preserved lemons from Williams and Sonoma, it’s going to cost $14.95 and 12 oz is probably going to get you only two lemons. That’s $6.50(ish) per lemon. At that price, they had better be grown in a pristine environment and completely organic with only the freshest and most pure air and water available. My lemons (and I made 8 of them, btw) cost me less than $5 and about $0.45 for the salt. Umm – yes. I can afford that. The whole lemon becomes edible, rind and all – so I’m really getting my dollars worth.

Okay. Now for the fun part and to answer the first question: Preserved lemons are a staple in Moroccan food. If you’ve never had Moroccan food, you’re missing out. It’s packed full of flavor and lots and lots of spices (namely turmeric which my stomach seems to love more than any other spice out there for its anti-inflammatory properties). They’re used in chicken dishes and other flavorful delights. When these puppies are done, I’ll post the recipe for the roast chicken.

I’m wondering what a piece of rind would taste like in a martini, but that’s just me and I might have to try it out when these are done. I’m willing to bet it would be fabulous! The rind also tastes delicious in a vinaigrette, or add a little bit of the fermented juice for a bit of a zip in your dressing! Or toss a little bit of the rind in your fresh salsa for a citrus zip (your guests will never guess) or toss some some minced rind with some cauliflower and capers prior to roasting. I’ll be providing recipes once they’re done. 🙂 Basically, the possibilities are endless. They also make WONDERFUL Christmas, birthday or host gifts.

The lemons will continue to ferment after the period of one month. Feel free to keep them on the counter for that one to two years if you like. However, the flavor will continue to change and will ultimately have a nice minty flavor. If you like the flavor that they’re at, simply put them in the fridge and fermentation will stop/slow down.

So, here’s what you’ll need:

Lemons. Duh. Organic is best. But, if you have to, conventional lemons will work, too. Just make sure you remove the wax coating on the outside. To do that, drop the lemons in a pot of boiling water for 10 seconds. Remove and, while the lemon rind is hot, wipe away the wax with a clean dishtowel. Repeat until all lemons have been stripped of their wax.

A large jar. I really really like Fido canning jars. They’re easy to pack and look pretty on my kitchen counter. (Let’s face it, fermenting lemons are GORGEOUS sitting on the counter!)

Sea salt. I’ve said this a few times in my fermentation posts, but make sure it is non-iodized (no iodine). Iodine has anti-bacterial properties. If we’re trying to make a bacteria rich environment, it’s a little counter-productive to kill off the buggies that will be preserving the food for us. I like this salt, but really, any sea salt is going to work well. Also, make sure the salt is free of anti-caking agent. You want salt that just says “sea salt” on the ingredients label. If it says anything else, put it down and look elsewhere. (Trader Joe’s, Fred Meyers, and any health foods store or specialty market will have sea salt.)

Last thing: Make sure your hands are clean as you’ll use your hands a lot in this process. Avoid using anti-bacterial soap when cleaning your hands, but do wash for 20 seconds, making sure to clean under your nails, between fingers, etc.


Preserved Lemons

  • 6-8 organic lemons, or conventional lemons with wax removed as outlined above, plus extra for juicing and topping off the jar
  • Sea Salt (lots of it)
  1. Cut the stem end off of the lemons and then cut the lemons into quarters, being careful not to fully cut through and separate them. See picture below.image
  2. Stuff 1 tbsp sea salt into the cut cavity of each lemon and press it down into a clean canning jar. Punch it down with your fist until it’s squished and juicing. Repeat until the jar is full.
  3. Squeeze a few more lemons and pour the juice on top of what’s already in the jar.
  4. Using a clean rock or some other weight, push the lemons down below the liquid line and leave in place.
  5. Store in a cool, dry place for a month. Do not open, except slightly so as to “burp” – this should be done daily.


Note: If weird colors start growing (namely black colors), dump immediately. But really, lacto-fermentation is very safe, given all tools are clean.

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