Preserved lemons feature in a lot of Middle Eastern recipes, here’s how to make and use them.
What are preserved lemons?
Preserved lemons are basically lemons pickled in salt, resulting in soft, mellow, salty, citrusy, pungent pieces of lemon to use as a condiment or ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine.
If you like North African or Middle Eastern flavours, these are a must make to have in your cupboard. It takes about 4 weeks for the lemons to cure and the flavours to mature, so make them well before you need them.
Hints and tips for great preserved lemons…
- Choose the size of your jar carefully, I usually use an old jam or marmalade jar approximately 340 to 450g in size. A kilner jar would also work well. This will take between 3 and 6 lemons depending on their size, giving me lemons to last approx 6 months.
- The lemons are good for about 1 year after opening, but I don’t want to make so many that I can’t use them quickly enough.
- Make sure the lid of your jar is in perfect condition. If there are any scratches or nicks in the inside of the lid, the salt from the preserving process will corrode the metal and spoil your lemons. Another plus for investing in a kilner jar!
- Choose small lemons, preferably unwaxed – you’ll be able to pack more into your jar.
- Wash and scrub the lemons under hot water, this is especially important if you’re not sure if they are waxed or not.
- Sterilise your jar by pouring boiling water into it right to the very top. Allow the jar to sit for 10 minutes before pouring the water away and letting the jar steam, up turned for a few minutes.
- Use good quality sea salt, not ordinary table salt, it has a better flavour.
Watch the video to see how to make preserved lemons
The Middle Eastern way to preserve lemons is to cut them into quarters, leaving the lemon intact at the botttom.
I prefer to cut the lemons into quarters as I find it easier to remove and use a quarter lemon, rather than a whole one.
Watch the video to see how you use preserved lemons…
Now that your preserved lemons have had time to pickle, it’s time to start using them.
- Always remove the lemon pieces from the jar with a clean fork. This prevents spoilage bacterial from your fingers contaminating the remaining lemon pieces.
- Rinse the piece(s) of lemon under the cold tap, peeling away and discarding the flesh.
- The rind is now ready to use and an be sliced or diced into stews, rubs, marinades, dressing or sprinkled over salad.
- Once you have removed the amount of lemon needed, use the fork to pack the remaining lemon down into the jar and add a good layer of vegetable or sunflower oil to the top. The oil keeps air away from the lemon pieces, helping the preserve to stay fresh.