Ever tried Preserved Lemons? If you haven’t, you must!
Commonly used in India and North Africa, they’re a staple of Mediterranean cuisine. They also are an absolute key ingredient in many Moroccan dishes, such as tajine, to which they add a very distinctive and tangy flavor. The pureed pulp makes a fantastic addition to stews and sauces, but it’s the chopped peel and rind that gets the most attention with its slightly tart and explosive lemony flavor.
Personally, I find them especially fantastic when paired with green olives and tomatoes. And they certainly can bring meat dishes to the next level, too! You can be sure that next time I make my Lemon & Artichoke Slow Cooker Chicken, I’ll be using preserved lemons, now that I finally have some in the fridge.
Sadly, this tasty condiment can be a little hard to come across in this part of the world, and when it does make an almost miraculous appearance on the shelf of some random store, it usually comes with a rather hefty price tag.
I really can’t even begin to understand why that is. They are so easy and so extremely cheap to make. Basically, all they require is a bunch of lemons, some salt, and maybe a droplet of water.
Oh, and a little bit of your time, too. But not much, I swear.
Lemons usually can be had for a handful of pennies a piece, so I’m not really out to break your budget with this project. You will need a total of 6 lemons (or maybe 5½ or 6½, it’s not really an exact science). So plan on spending about 6 handfuls of pennies. Oh, and before you go out and buy your lemons, check to make sure that you have plenty of good quality, additive free salt and at least one clean and not-currently-used 1-quart canning jar on hand.
You back from the store already? Good! Now scrub those lemons clean under warm running water, then cut off about 1/4 of an inch off the tip of each lemon.
Make a deep cross in each lemon, as if you were going to cut them into quarters lengthwise, but don’t cut all the way through. You want to stop about 1/2 an inch from the end so to keep the lemons attached at their base.
Pry the lemons open with your fingers…
…and sprinkle about a tablespoon of salt all over the insides of the lemons.
Add the the lemons to the jar, one at a time, and squish them down real good so that they release enough juice for it to eventually rise all the way to the top of the jar.
Don’t be afraid to bruise the fruits here… after all, you’re going to chop them up when you use them. You really want to get them to release as much of their juices as possible.
Make sure that your lemons are completely covered with lemon juice. Add more freshly squeezed lemon juice (or filtered water if no spare lemons are available) if necessary.
To help keep the lemons completely submerged, you may want to add a little bit of weight on top of them, such as a shot glass or any other small non-reactive object.
I like to use the plastic lid of one of my spice containers; I push it down until it gets completely filled with liquid and then I position it in such a way that when I close the lid, it holds everything safely in place beneath the “water” line.
Now all that’s left to do is cover the jar loosely and let your lemons ferment at room temperature but away from direct sunlight for 10-12 days, then transfer to refrigerator.
If you’re using a latch lid jar, you can either remove the rubber ring during the fermentation process or “burp” your jar every day by slightly cracking open that lid just enough to allow excess gas to escape, then latch it right back.
These will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months, but I seriously doubt you will keep them that long.
To use them, you could separate the pulp and puree it, then add a few teaspoons to your sauces and stews, or chop the peel finely then add as much or as little as you want to your favorite dishes for a serious hit of tangy, lemony taste.
You can also simply chop the whole things without removing the pulp. Simply cut out a piece the size that you want and chop it up, then add it to your dish. And if you don’t want to add too much salt but are looking for a real bold lemon kick, simply rinse them off before to use them!
And psssst… just for fun, try adding a little bit to your mayonnaise. It’s to.die.for!