Preserved Lemons

Susan Troccolo wrote about harvesting her lemons and I suggested she might like to try preserving them under salt.  To make this you need either your own lemons that you know haven’t been treated in any way or organic lemons that haven’t been waxed.

Preserved lemons aren’t available to buy in Viterbo so I started making them because I had to, but now I wouldn’t ever want to be without them in the store cupboard.

Preserved Lemons

From Rick Stein’s Fruits of the sea (one of the books I use all the time, the recipes are wonderful and all actually turn out the way they should!)

This recipe is so easy yet produces the most wonderful preserved lemons that can be used in any Moroccan recipe, or on winter salads or almost anywhere you want the fragrant flavour of lemons.

I follow the same recipe for limes and it works perfectly.

10 lemons, either your own or unwaxed organic

275g (10 ounces) salt

1.2 litres (2 pints) water

Cut the lemons almost into quarters, leaving them joined at one end.  Sprinkle a little salt into the centre of each, then arrange them, tightly packed, in a plastic or glass container (I use Kilner jars as shown in the photographs).  Bring the water and the rest of the salt to the boil in a large pan.  Boil until the salt has dissolved, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Pour the brine over the lemons, weigh them down with some non-metallic weight and leave for 3-4 weeks before using.  They will keep indefinitely!

If you want to use just the skin, just slide a knife between the skin and flesh.

When I make charmoula, I use the flesh of the lemon.  If making a sauce or salsa the whole lemon can be blended in a food processor (remembering to remove the pips first).

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31 thoughts on “Preserved Lemons

  1. All very intriguing – I have never come across preserved lemons in any recipes I use, but I am tempted to try this out with a bargain bag of lemons and find recipes that do!

    • Just as long as the bargain bag is organic or at least wax free! Almost all Moroccan recipes use preserved lemons, try Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute dinners, Moroccan sea bream – I did that today and it is wonderful, if you don’t like fish it would be perfect with chicken too, just cook for longer. You can watch him do it on You tube. Just the skin sliced over a crunchy winter salad is wonderful.

    • Not a silly question at all. You can rinse the lemon as you would other things that have been salted. I don’t notice that they are very salty, the saline solution isn’t very strong.

  2. Something I have yet to try. It does admittedly sound a bit strange, preserving them in salt, but then I once thought preserving plums in salt (“Umeboshi”) sounded odd until I tried them!

    • Oh, but oranges DO have wax too, they are also sprayed with more chemicals than almost any other fruit. You shouldn’t open an orange with your teeth and after handling the skin you should wash you hands carefully. If you want to use the zest then it ought to be from an organic orange.

  3. Thanks so very much for this recipe, Christina! I really appreciate your taking the time. I just checked on the lemons just now, removed the lightweight blanket because the weather is so sunny and found another 12-15 lemons ready to be harvested. Off to make some preserved lemons….

  4. Christina, another question. Does it matter if you use kosher salt or sea salt? I just looked in my cupboard and I had those two types to choose from. The kosher of course, has very large crystals and is quite salty, but often used for making brine.

  5. I made them also but without water and with lemon juice. Very strong but as I love lemons it suits me perfectly. Hubby tried them in an apple pie and that wasn’t a good idea!

    • I don’t think you need lemon juice, it makes it more expensive to make. They are usually used in savoury dishes, but I would have thought just a little if the rind in a sweet pie would be good.

  6. Hi Christina, it’s great added to salads and curries too. My recipe doesn’t use brine – you quarter the lemons and massage salt into them and pack into sterilised jars, pressing down hard to release the juice and adding bits of bay leaf and cinnamon stick. If the juice doesn’t cover them top with a bit of extra juice. Ready in about a month to use and the jars make lovely gifts! 500gms of salt to 10 lemons.

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