A must-have condiment in my pantry: Preserved Lemons.
Why You Need Preserved Lemons in Your Fridge
Do you have a lemon tree? Or have you been gifted with a plastic grocery sack full of lemons by a well-meaning friend? You may be wondering what in the world to do with all that sunshiny fruit.
I have a Meyer lemon tree. At certain times of the year, my kitchen counter looks like a citrus stand at the local farmer's market. I am always looking for a way to make the most of the backyard bounty (in addition to giving it away in plastic grocery sacks to friends).
The Solution: Pack Them in Salt
The goal with any fruit or vegetable surplus is to use it all before it rots. Yes, I could always make lemonade or something sweet. But there is a limit to how many lemon bars one can eat, theoretically.
Taking a page from the old world practice of preserving food with salt, lemons are cured in their juices with lots of salt. They are basically lemon pickles. Now if that sounds terrible to you, read on.
How to Use Preserved Lemons
You wouldn’t think that something sour and salty is what you want to put on your food, let alone spend an afternoon making. But think about all the sour and salty condiments you already use: capers, anchovies, and miso paste. No? How about soy sauce, kimchi, and pickles?
Preserved lemons offer a bright, slightly tangy, umami hit to whatever you serve them with, like chicken, fish, lamb, root vegetables, pasta, and grains. I also like them whizzed into vinaigrettes, sauces, and dips.
Did all those suggestions confuse or overwhelm you? Here, my darling, are some specific recipes that utilize preserved lemons:
- Roast Chicken with Preserved Lemons
- Yas Queen Pizza with zucchini, feta, and preserved lemon
- Bucatini with Preserved Lemon, Swiss Chard, and Cream
- Ultimate Winter Couscous
- Shrimp and Arugula Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing
They Provide Vegan Umami
When we talk about umami, we are referring to a meaty savoriness that certain foods and condiments possess. Things like aged cheeses, fish sauce, meats, and seafood are rich in umami flavor.
But what if you are vegan? You can enjoy umami savoriness in mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, seaweed, and certain veggies. And yes, preserved lemons!
Any salted, fermented, cured item will lend umami flavor to whatever you are cooking and eating.
How to Make Preserved Lemons
Now that you have decided that you need preserved lemons in your life, let’s make them. You only need two ingredients: lemons and kosher salt. Plus a mason jar.
Well, you will also need patience. These take a minimum of three weeks to cure before they are ready to be used. So, hang on to all those recipes you just bookmarked and make them three weeks from now.
Because I was going to use preserved lemons in a variety of dishes both savory and sweet, I chose not to include any optional ingredients like peppers, bay leaves, or spices, but include them if you want.
- Choose your lemons carefully. Some of the lemons from my tree are the size of grapefruit and getting them into a quart-size canning jar was like me trying to squeeze into my favorite pair of skinny jeans after Christmas cookie season. Pick the ones that will fit.
- Discard any visible seeds as you are cutting the lemons. You won’t get them all, but that’s okay. There will be fewer seeds to fish out later.
- This will keep in the fridge for up to a year. If the canning jar is taking up too much real estate in your refrigerator, puree the contents into Preserved Lemon Paste and store in the fridge in smaller jars. The paste is easy to use and provides the same flavor.
Inspiration for preserving lemons came from many great recipes, all with clear directions. Thanks go to Simply Recipes and Yotam Ottolenghi for sharing theirs.Print
6 to 10 unwaxed lemons
½ cup to 1 cup kosher salt
Fresh lemon juice
- Clean and sterilize a quart-size canning jar. An easy way to do this: fill a clean jar with boiling water, allow it to sit for a few minutes, and pour the water out. Allow it to air dry while you prepare the lemons.
- Scrub and rinse the lemons so they are free from any dirt. Cut a tiny bit (⅛ to ¼ inch) off the end of the lemons to remove any stems.
- Cut lemons in half lengthwise but not all the way through. Keep a base at the bottom so that the halves are still attached. Cut again lengthwise to make quarter slices, still attached at the bottom.
- Stuff the cut lemons with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.
- Tip 2 Tablespoons of salt into the canning jar. Place the prepared lemons into the canning jar, pressing them down to fit as many as you can. Their juices will come out and start to fill the jar. Add 2 more Tablespoons of kosher salt.
- Juice any remaining lemons and pour the juices into the jar to fill it to the top.
- Secure the lid and outer ring to the top of the jar and screw on to close it tightly. Turn the jar upside down a few times to distribute the juices and salt.
- Allow the jar to sit on your kitchen counter for 2 or 3 days. Then, move the jar to the refrigerator and let the lemons cure for at least 3 weeks before using. Preserved lemons can be stored in the fridge for 6 months to 1 year.