Lemons pickled in salt (also known as “preserved lemons”) are big in North African cuisine. They are also used in Jewish dishes from the Sephardic tradition. Preserved lemons are easy to make and keep for a long time in the refrigerator.
There are many ways to make preserved lemons. Meyer lemons, said to be a cross between a lemon (the most common varieties being the Lisbon or the Eureka) and a mandarin orange, have thin edible skin and lack the bitter pith of regular lemons. They are more sweet than tart and make the best preserved lemons (in my opinion, of course).
Recipe for Preserved Meyer Lemons
- 6-8 lemons (preferably Meyer lemons), dipped in boiling water for 10 seconds and then wiped clean to remove any wax (or just scrub your lemons very well or use organic unwaxed lemons)
- 1 cup Kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 cup sugar (some recipes don’t use sugar, but I like to use a little)
- 2 cinnamon sticks — optional
- olive oil — optional
- 1 qt. glass canning jar with screw-top lid
- Trim the ends off your lemons and slice them into quarters. In a small bowl, mix your salt and sugar together, and pack some of this into the bottom of your jar.
- Put your lemons into the salt/sugar mixture and mix well, so that all the lemons are coated. Then pack the lemons into your jar.
- Push down hard so you can fit as many in as possible, and then top off with some more of the salt/sugar mixture if there is room. (You may end up with a little of the salt/sugar left over; I mixed mine with a little coconut oil and used it as a body scrub).
- After a few days, the lemons will start to exude their own juices and it will look more like your lemons are hanging out in a jar of liquid with some sugar/salt at the bottom. Some of the lemons will probably not be submerged at this point, so you can add the juice of a few more lemons to your jar (as well as the cinnamon sticks, if using).
- Lastly, pour in some olive oil to bring the liquid over the lemons (some recipes suggest doing this; some don’t).
- Next, every day for a month, make sure the cap is on tight and give your jar a couple of shakes to distribute any salt/sugar not in solution.
- After a month’s time, the lemons will be ready for use; just rinse and chop the rinds and use them as you would lemon rind in any recipe. These will keep 6-12 months or more in the refrigerator.
— Winnie Abramson writes the organic gardening and food blog Healthy Green Kitchen.
Photo credit: Winnie Abramson