Preserved lemons are something I keep wishing I had on hand, especially a few weeks ago when I made chicken tagine. I can’t bring myself to go pay some fancy grocer for something this simple that I could just learn how to make myself. These lemons lend that extra oomph to your dishes, even a small bit can go a long way in taking your food up a notch. But… they take an entire month to become properly preserved! Today I’m preserving one jar of lemons, and in 30 days I’ll share a recipe including the end product, most likely something Moroccan.
Preserved lemons are most common in North African, Cambodian, and Indian cuisine, and recipes for them can be found in cookbooks as far back as the early 1800’s. As far as I understand you can make preserved lemons submerged in a ‘brine’ the way I have, or just with salt and sugar in a dry version. The latter seems less common.
Wikipedia: An early 19th century recipe is as follows:
They should be small, and with thick rinds: rub them with a piece of flannel; then slit them half down in four quarters, but not through to the pulp; fill the slits with salt hard pressed in, set them upright in a pan for four or five days, until the salt melts; turn them thrice a day in their own liquor, until tender; make enough pickle to cover them, of rape-vinegar, the brine of the lemons, Jamaica pepper, and ginger; boil and skim it; when cold, put it to the lemons, with two ounces of mustard-seed, and two cloves of garlic to six lemons. When the lemons are used, the pickle will be useful in fish or other sauces.
— A Lady
Preserved Lemons: yields one 500 ml jar, or 3-4 lemons
1+1/2 TB kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
3-4 lemons with nice looking rinds
1 Mason jar, approx 500 ml
1 wooden spoon for smushing
30 days worth of patience
-Place the 1+1/2 TB of salt in the bottom of your mason jar.
-Using a sharp or serrated knife, cut into the lemons as if you were going to cut them into quarters but don’t cut quite all the way through, leaving the wedges attached.
-Rub salt into the lemon slits and begin cramming one lemon at a time into the jar. Use the handle of your wooden spoon to smush each lemon down into the jar, squishing out the juices and creating a salty brine for them to preserve in.
-Keep salting, placing, and smushing the lemons into the jar until they are crammed in very tightly and until the juices come just above the top lemon. All lemon parts should be submerged in salty lemon juice.
-The mason jar I used is about 500 ml, and I was able to cram in three small lemons. This will obviously vary with your jar size and the size of your lemons.
-Use the juice of any leftover lemons to top up the jar if there isn’t enough liquid. I bought a bottle of lemon juice just in case I needed more for the brine, but that salt does an incredibly good job of helping the lemons release their juices as you smash them with the wooden spoon… so don’t be fooled! There’s a surprising amount of juice in there!
-When the lemons are crammed and juices filled to the top, twist the lid on tight and leave at room temperature for 30 days, flipping the jar onto it’s head every couple of days to keep the brine mixed well. Since there is more salt at the bottom than the top, this flipping is necessary to keep the lemons preserving evenly and consistently.
-Summon your inner buddha and have one month of patience, don’t be tempted to open the lemons early.
-Once fully pickled: add to salads, dressing, soups and stews, and anything with chicken… especially tagine! A quick google search will yield tons of ideas.
Ciao for now guys!