Saturday, February 9, 2013

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are lemons which have been cut and packed with kosher salt or coarse sea salt so that their juices and the salt create a sort brine in which they cure.  They are wonderful additions to soups and stews where a tart flavor is desired.  They also go very well (obviously) in Moroccan dishes, with fish, and can even be used in desserts (preserved lemon bars, anyone?). 

I have had a jar of lemons hanging out in the pantry for a month or so, and now they are finally finished and ready to be used.  While preserved lemons can be purchased in some markets, they are usually packed in a vinegar brine and have a very different taste from those made at home.  Homemade preserved lemons are fresher and brighter in flavor, and therefore, worth the little effort required to make them. 
The best lemons to use for this project are thin-skinned Meyer lemons.  Unfortunately, they cannot be easily located where I live, so I used regular lemons from the grocery.  Since these lemons are thicker-skinned, I soaked them in water for two days before beginning to soften them a bit and rinsed them in hot water afterwards to remove any wax residue from the skin.

Once they had been soaked, I cut them in quarters lengthwise leaving them attached at the stem end.  I packed the inside of the cut lemons with salt, and placed them in a jar, pressing down to release some of the juice.  A quart jar will hold approximately 6 to 8 lemons if they are packed well.  Then, all that is left is to wait a month or so until they are ready.  Their tart vibrancy provides a bit of needed sunshine on these cold winter days. 

If you are interested in Moroccan food including preserved lemons this book, Morocco by Jeff Koehler, is an good read and resource.

Preserved Lemons- makes 1 quart jar (6-8 lemons)

If using thin-skinned lemons like Meyers, all that is needed is to wash the lemons well.  If using thicker-skinned lemons, soak the lemons in lukewarm water for 2 days, changing the water daily.  The soaking process will soften the lemon skin.  They will then need to be rinsed in warm water to remove any wax from the outside of the lemon.  Also, try to get smaller lemons as you will be able to fit more in the jar and they pack easier.   

10 lemons (6-8 for the jar, and 2 for the juice) 
Kosher salt or coarse sea salt (1/2-3/4 cup)

Sterilize a quart jar.  Juice two lemons and set the juice aside.  Using a sharp knife, cut a lemon in half lengthwise leaving the stem end attached.  Rotate the lemon 90 degrees, and cut again so that the lemon is now cut into quarters lengthwise but all the quarters are attached at one end.  Gently open the wedges of the lemon and generously pack the inside with salt.  Rub salt on the outside of the lemon as well.  Place the lemon in the jar and press down on it to release some of the juice.  Repeat this process with the remaining lemons, packing them securely into the jar.  Pour the reserved lemon juice over the top to cover the lemons.  The lemons need to be completely covered with juice.  Invert the jar several times to distribute and dissolve the salt.  Place the lid on the jar.  Place the jar in a cool, dark place for one month.  Once the lemons are ready, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a year.    

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  1. I have been curious about preserved lemons-- both making them and finding dishes to make with them. What a great post, thanks!

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