Saturday, October 8, 2011

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are said to be the "secret ingredient" that gives Moroccan and Middle Eastern foods that special flavor that can be so elusive. They can be used in many dishes, from main meals to desserts. I've been meaning to make them for a long time and when I saw them again recently on a cooking show (wish I could remember which one), I decided the time had come. Although you can order these online, or find them at a specialty market if you are lucky enough to have one of those nearby, they are easy to make yourself. Of course, you have to wait a month before you can use them, but I figured that would give me plenty of time to find recipes to make using these flavorful fruits.

Recipes abound for making these, and I researched multiple sources, but I want to give special credit to Sprouted Kitchen for the clear, simple to follow directions and beautiful photographs. It's a simple process requiring only a large Mason jar, a bag of Meyer (or other) lemons, some salt, and a few spices if you are so inclined. Not all recipes call for the additional spices, but I could not resist the urge to add a few extras.

10-12 Meyer lemons, scrubbed
1 cup good salt (Kosher or sea salt)
1 bay leaf
8-10 peppercorns
5-6 whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks
(cloves or star anise would be nice, too)

  1. Thoroughly clean a large, wide-mouthed Mason jar. Sanitize for 10 minutes in boiling water.
  2. Trim both ends of each lemon.
  3. Cut lemons in to quarters, lengthwise, and remove visible seeds.
  4. Place about 1/4 cup salt in bottom of jar.
  5. Layer in 4 or 5 quarters, pushing them into the jar so some juice squishes out.
  6. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of salt, letting the salt touch the flesh of each slice.
  7. Continue layering, squishing out some juice each time.
  8. When the jar is nearly full, add additional lemon juice, if needed, to come up to about 2 inches from the top of the fruit.
  9. Add spices.
  10. Cover and leave at room temperature for 2-3 days, turning the jar upside down occasionally to distribute the salt and juice. By the end of 3 days, you should have enough juice to cover the lemons. If not, add a bit more, then refrigerate for 4 weeks.
To use preserved lemons, remove the flesh, and slice the rind into thin strips. Preserved lemons will keep up to 6 months refrigerated.

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