the art of making preserved lemons
The art of preserved lemons sounds much more dramatic than it really is. Preserved lemons are actually incredibly simple to make, like silly simple, it's two ingredients so really it doesn’t get simpler than that. And they add such an amazing depth of flavour when added to dishes that the waiting time of a month to preserve is worth it.
It took me forever to actually get around to making my own preserved lemons. For some reason whenever something is preserved or canned or pickled I think it is going to be some huge ordeal or process to make but truthfully most of the time it turns into nothing and even the items that take a bit more of a production can be turned into a lovely Sunday afternoon activity with a girlfriend or your kiddies.
Preserved lemons are lemons that have been preserved in salt and their own juices, let to sit for about a month until they become somewhat of a translucent colour and used in Moroccan, Middle Eastern and some Indian cuisines. They add a burst of intense, concentrated lemon flavour but in the softest of ways in my opinion. The preserving takes away the sour tartness that lemons can sometimes have but accentuates and heightens the actual lemon flavour.
Preserved lemons can be used in a multitude of ways, blended into salad dressings, baked with fish, whipped into marinades for meats, mortared into a basil pesto for pasta, farro or quinoa dishes. You could even make a lovely Parmesan and preserved lemon risotto or make a cream sauce or preserved lemon hollandaise. Dips and preserved lemons are really good friends, hummus, spinach, or a preserved lemon yogurt for some ideas. Truly you can use them in so much, anywhere you would add lemon you can add preserved lemon instead.
Meyer lemons are the prominently chosen lemon to use for preserving in the Middle East but you could use a regular Eureka variety as well. I actually used organic Eureka ones and they are absolutely delicious. Because you use only the rind from preserved lemons it is best to buy an organic lemon, if you can’t find organic ones make sure to wash your lemons really well, you can soak them in a vinegar-water solution as well, rinsing after soaking.
I have read conflicting articles on whether you need to sterilize your jars for preserved lemons. I think because there is such a high concentrate of lemon juice and loads of salt I highly doubt anything bad would be trying to live in the jar with them but sterilizing is pretty simple so you can easily add it into the preserving process.
To sterilize your canning jar. You can use a mason jar or another canning jar of any size. It really depends on how many lemons you want to preserve. The recipe I am sharing here today is a small batch, 3-4 lemons and they fit in a jar about the size of a jam jar. But of course you can easily use something larger that will fit more lemons and the sterilizing process is the same for any size.
Boil a large pot of of water. Lower the jar and lid into the water and boil it for five minutes. Lay the jar and lid out to dry on a clean towel.
That’s it. Pretty easy, you don’t need to re-boil to seal the jars after you have placed the lemons and preserving salt into the jars so it is a simple one time boil just to make sure the jar is a clean as possible. Again though you could skip this step as I don’t think anything will grow inside with the amount of salt and lemon juice, but of course I wouldn’t want anything to happen to your precious preserved lemons so if you are more on the weary side sterilize away.
Now onto the recipe, the two ingredient, silly simple recipe...
the art of making preserved lemons
3-4 organic meyer or eureka lemons
8 tbsp of himlayan salt
extra lemon juice if needed
1 canning jar
Wash your lemons thoroughly (if you aren’t using organic I would recommend a vinegar-water bath first).
Trim both ends to remove the remains of the stem and the little nub. Then slice them as if you’re cutting them into quarters, but not all the way to the bottom, you want to keep them intact. Add one tbsp of salt to the inside of each lemon (before it goes into the jar).
If you sterilized your jar make sure it is cooled and dry before adding the lemons.
Adding the lemons to the jar; add 1 tbsp of salt to the bottom of the jar then place one salted lemon in cut side down, pushing hard so that the juices come out. Then add another tbsp of salt on top of that lemon and then add another salted lemon, pushing again so the juices come out. Continue this process, lemon salt lemon, until the jar is full and top with a remaining tbsp of salt.
The lemons should be completely covered with their own juices, if they aren’t you can add just the juice of a couple more lemons until they are completely covered. Screw the lid on and let the jar sit at room temperature for 3 days, shaking the jar 3-4 times a day to help spread the salt. After 3 days place the jar in the fridge and your lemons should be ready to go in about 4 weeks. You can tell they are ready when the rind turns a translucent colour and the juice inside seems thick and the salt is absorbed.
When you’re ready to use, remove has many lemon pieces as you need for your recipe. Scrap out the inside of the lemon and chop up the rind (you only ever use the rind) into tiny pieces or blend into whatever marinade or dressing you are using them for.
They should keep in your fridge for at least six months.
You can use any kind of lemon you like. Best to use organic.
You could also use a sea salt instead of the Himalayan salt.