Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Preserved Lemons

You can tell from my blog that I tend to gravitate toward cuisines and dishes that feature rich spice palettes. Southeast Asian and South Asian cuisines certainly qualify on that score, as does Moroccan cuisine.

A few weeks back I featured a great recipe on harira (, a meat stew that Moroccans traditionally use to break their Ramadan fast. It came out so well that I made it twice in a two-week period.

As I was exploring the possibility of making other Moroccan dishes, I noticed that a number of the tagines require an item not easily found on supermarket shelves: preserved lemons. Several recipes for Moroccan chicken with lemon and olive feature this tart, preserved fruit.

Rather than resign myself to defeat, I set about finding a recipe for preserved lemons and found several. Some preserve the lemons in lemon juice while others rely on white vinegar, which is what I used. Some add whole spices such as cinnamon sticks and peppercorns, while others do not.

The most challenging part of the recipe is the fact that you won't be able to use the lemons for about three weeks, which is the length of time it takes for them to be properly preserved.

I have just hit the three-week mark, so check in soon for a post on Moroccan chicken with preserved lemons and olives!

Preserved Lemons (Adapted from


8-10 lemons, scrubbed very clean
1/2 cup kosher salt, more if needed
Extra fresh squeezed lemon juice (or white vinegar), if needed

Sterilized quart canning jar

1. Place 2 Tbsp of kosher salt

in the bottom of a sterilized jar.

2. One by one, prepare the lemons in the following way. Cut off any protruding stems from the lemons, and cut 1/4 inch off the tip of each lemon.

3. Cut the lemons as if you were going to cut them in half lengthwize, starting from the tip, but do not cut all the way. Keep the lemon attached at the base. Make another cut in a similar manner, so now the lemon is quartered, but again, attached at the base.

3 Pry the lemons open and generously sprinkle salt all over the insides and outsides of the lemons.

4 If you like, you can put peppercorns and a cinnamon stick

in the jars before adding the lemons.

5. Pack the lemons in the jar, squishing them down so that juice is extracted and the lemon juice rises to the top of the jar. Fill up the jar with lemons, make sure the top is covered with lemon juice. Add more fresh squeezed lemon juice if necessary. Top with a couple tablespoons of salt.

5 Seal the jar and let sit at room temperature for a couple days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally. Put in refrigerator and let sit, again turning upside down occasionally, for at least 3 weeks, until lemon rinds soften.

6. To use, remove a lemon from the jar and rinse thoroughly in water to remove salt. Discard seeds before using. Discard the pulp before using, if desired.

7. Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

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