Preserved Lemons

Moroccan food seems to be popping up on lists as one of the top food trends for 2012. I’m starting the new year off by making one of the ingredients that frequently shows up in Moroccan and other Middle Eastern recipes, preserved lemons.

Luckily this is the start of the season for one of my favorite citrus fruits, the Meyer lemon. A cross between a lemon and a tangerine, Meyer lemons are less tart and have thinner skins than the usual supermarket varieties that are available year round. Any variety of lemon will work perfectly for this recipe, but if you have a choice, go for the Meyer lemons.

The procedure couldn’t be easier, quartered lemons are simply packed with a good amount of salt. After 30 days, the rinds become silky and intensely lemony. It’s the tender peel that is typically rinsed & chopped for use in recipes that call for preserved lemon, although many people love the salty lemony juice for Bloody Mary cocktails.

No special equipment is needed other than a clean glass jar with a lid. Preserving food doesn’t get easier (or safer) than this thanks to the high acidity of the lemons and the large amount of salt. The recipe below makes a one pint jar, and is easily doubled if you happen to have a lemon tree in your back yard. The number of lemons listed is approximate since some lemons are larger than others.

Preserved (Salted) Lemons
7-8 Meyer lemons (or 5-6 common lemons)
Kosher or coarse sea salt
1 pint glass jar with a tight fitting lid.

Release the pulp and juice with your fingers, letting the juice run into the jar. Rub each quarter with a teaspoon of salt and place in the jar.

Continue squeezing the juice out of each quarter into the jar and rubbing with salt as above, tightly packing into the jar as you go until you reach the top of the jar. Squeeze the juice from any extra lemons to top of the jar to cover the last of the lemons with juice.

Tightly cover with the lid and turn the jar upside down a few times to help distribute the juice & salt. Place the jar on your kitchen counter for 30 days, shaking it daily. The lemons are ready to be used at this point as called for in recipes, or stored in your refrigerator up to 6 months. Makes one pint.

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