Preserved Lemons


Well my curiosity has gotten the better of me. Everywhere I turn lately, I see something about preserved lemons. They look so intriguing, salty and sour. My mouth puckers thinking about them (I do love salt and vinegar chips – a little too much). Yet I imagine these would add a much fresher note to a dish. They are an important component in Moroccan and Indian and middle Eastern cooking. I found some beautiful, tiny organic lemons in our health supermarket and thought they would be perfect to use in preserved lemons, as it is the preserved peel you use, and in my reading I found out that the smaller lemons with a higher ratio of peel to flesh make the best preserved lemons. And also, organic is important, because a lot of the sprays applied to citrus fruits, concentrate themselves in the peels, and I prefer to avoid those toxic cocktails.

jar of preserved lemons

So I made up a quart of these beautiful, glistening lemons, and have been impatiently turning the jar and waiting for them to finish doing their magic thing that they need a month to do. I have about a week left to wait, and then I get to try them, so I will let you know how they turn out. I am already rubbing my hands and smacking my lips while reading recipes and thinking of ways I can use them.

There was an article about preserved lemons in the January issue of the Chatelaine magazine (recipes to use them are in the magazine) and check out Hunter Angler Gardener Cook to read more about them.

lemons for preserving

Preserved Lemons

  • enough lemons to fill a quart jar by squishing them in, about 5 to 8, depending on their size, plus more for juice
  • kosher salt (or sea salt) – 5 to 8 Tbsp (75 to 120 ml)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp (5ml) black peppercorns
  • 3 crushed cardamom pods
  • 3 whole cloves

Cut each lemon into quarters, not cutting all the way through to the bottom, leaving about 1/2 inch attached. Pour about 1 Tbsp (15ml) of the salt into the bottom of the jar. Open up each cut lemon and sprinkle as much salt into the center as you can, holding it over the jar to catch the salt that falls. Close the lemon up again, and put it into the jar. Repeat with all the lemons and squish them into the jar so that their juices start to release. As you place them into the jar, layer in the spices.

filling the jar of preserved lemons

When the jar is full, squish all the lemons down, sprinkle on another tablespoon or so of salt, and squeeze more fresh lemon juice over the top until they are completely covered in juice. Leave on the counter for about a week, shaking the jar every day so the salt dissolves. Then store the jar in the fridge for another three weeks, and the lemons should be ready to use.

The peels are the good part – they can be finely sliced or chopped and added to flavour a variety of dishes.

I cannot wait to try out this intriguing food.


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3 Responses to Preserved Lemons

  1. Bessie says:

    This sounds wonderful. How do I use them?

    • Margaret says:

      Thanks for the question – I keep meaning to do another post using the preserved lemons, and your comment brought it to mind again. To use the lemons, you pull the flesh away from the peel and discard the flesh. Then you finely slice or mince the peel and use it in any recipes that could use a hit of salt or lemon. It’s used a lot in Middle Eastern recipes, but I also like to mince it and add it to vinaigrettes, or toss it with a bit of minced garlic and oil for roasting vegetables, or adding it to meat, fish, or rice dishes. A small amount of the finely minced peel is even a nice garnish to sprinkle on soups, or stir it in just before serving. It’s best to start with just a small amount and increase if you like the flavour – since it’s very lemony and salty, yet somehow tastes different than normal lemon peel. I hope you get a chance to give it a try! 🙂

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