Preserved Lemons

Two months ago, I had my first taste of salted lemons.

preserved lemons

My world has changed forever.

I had been seeing them all over Pinterest, but without any context for how they were used, I didn’t give them much thought.  Then I ate salted lemon sherbet at The Breslin in New York, and my ice cream world was turned upside down.  I’m a hardcore chocolate/coffee ice cream fan – Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz (dark chocolate espresso chips! ) is my all time favorite flavor, if that’s any indication.  After tasting the exquisiteness of salted lemons in that creamy frozen form, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about them.  Within days of returning home, I made a jar of them and began what felt like an eternal wait for them to pickle.  Or whatever it is they do as they sit in salt and acid.

Preserved lemons have a lemon flavor that’s less bright and much more intense than that of fresh lemons.  I almost feel blasphemous for saying this, but I think I like them just as much as like chocolate.

Preserved Lemon Trio

adapted from The Kitchn

3 lemons
Kosher salt

1.  Sterilize a jar just big enough to fit your lemons in boiling water for 15 minute (lid should be submerged in water the whole time).
2.  Scrub the lemons under water to remove dirt and impurities.
3.  Slice off the stem end of the tip end of each lemon.  Starting at one end, cut the lemons in half lengthwise, but stop about 1/2 an inch before you reach the bottom.  Repeat the cut perpendicularly so you have cut each lemon lengthwise in an “X” formation, but not all the way through;  they should still be attached at the bottom, about 1/2 an inch.

cut lemons for preserving

4.  Liberally sprinkle salt on the inside and outside of the lemons.

lemons covered in salt

5.  Add about 1 Tbsp. of salt to the bottom of the sterilized jar.  Place each lemon in the jar, pushing down on them and squeezing them to release the juices.  Fill the jar but leave about 3/4 inch of headroom.  The lemons should be completely submerged in juice.  If you can’t get enough juice out of them, remove a lemon wedge or juice a lemon and add it to the jar.  Add 1 more Tbsp. of salt to the top.  Seal the jar.

(I didn’t have a jar that fit perfectly, so I had to use one that was much bigger than the volume I had.  I also ended up pretty much juicing all the lemons and squeezing about another whole lemon’s worth of juice in order to barely cover the peels in liquid.  It seems some people keep the lemon flesh and use for cooking, whereas others discard the flesh and use only the rinds for cooking.)


6.  Let the jar sit at RT for 2-3 days, turning it upside down and shaking it each day to distribute the salt and liquids.

7.  Put the jar in the refrigerator and turn it upside down about every other day.

8.  The lemons will be ready in three weeks, when the rinds have softened.  Rinse your lemon thoroughly in water to remove excess salt before using.

(Note:  After several days, I noticed my lemons looked kind of bloated and slimy.  Concerned, I did some googling, and found that it was indeed normal.  At the end of the three week incubation period, I gingerly nibbled a little piece of rind, and waited to see if I would suddenly develop chills, nausea, muscle paralysis, etc.  Nothing happened.  I have since eaten almost half the jar and have suffered no ill consequences.)

9.  Lemons will keep in the refrigerator for six months.

10.  Optional:  You can add spices such as cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, coriander seeds, cloves, peppercorns, dried chiles, and cardamom pods.       

Sliced Lemon

lemons in jar top 2 2 months later


6 responses to “Preserved Lemons

  1. This is something I see a lot, too and have been meaning to do, but I love your inspiration. I’m saving this in my recipe file so I will actually stop procrastinating and make these. I do a lot of canning.

    • I’d love to hear what you end up doing with them if/when you finally make them! I read some of your posts on education, and can identify with a lot in them (e.g. #2 on Teacher clothes). I only taught for a couple years, but feel like you articulate many of the same things that I saw and felt.

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