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Life Give You Lemons? Make Preserved Lemons.

Life Give You Lemons? Make Preserved Lemons.

preserved lemons

And by 'life give you', I just mean that I bought too many lemons. Then I went on vacation and forgot about them, and now have to deal with all these lemons. Luckily, there are these fantastic flavor-boosting, tart-and-citrusy, sweet-and-savory bits of magic called preserved lemons, and you should totally make them if you have a bunch of lemons around. It takes 15 minutes of work and a few weeks of hanging around, then you'll have these delicious cured lemons for adding to salads, making sauces, mixing into pasta, tossing onto fried things, and putting in my favorite tagine (recipe coming soon, I promise). 

The Rough Recipe

You'll need the following:

  • At least 3 lemons, or as many as you've got
  • A sealable jar, or several jars, that look like they'll kind of fit your lemons
  • Lots of kosher salt (we love Diamond Crystal brand)

Optional flavorings include spices like black peppercorns, bay leaves, cinnamon and cardamom - the flavors are really up to you, but you can leave them all out if you've never made preserved lemons before. You can add sugar if you want a sweeter version, and you can also make a super fast version with olive oil, according to Food52. 

Wash and lightly scrub your lemons and get your jars ready. I pour in boiling water to sterilize them, or use your cleaning/sterilizing method of choice. Pour kosher salt into the jar until a good layer coats the bottom.

One by one, stand each lemon on its end and cut it into quarters lengthwise, but don't cut all the way down. Sprinkle a spoonful of kosher salt in the center - the lemon should look like this:

lemon for preserved lemons

Close the lemon back up and put it in the jar, pressing down with a spoon to release the juice. Top the lemon with another spoonful or two of salt, then repeat the process until the jar is full.

If you run out of space, squeeze the juice of the remaining lemons into the jar until the jar is full (zest the lemons before discarding!). If you run out of lemons and still have a little space, boil some water and let it cool, then add it to the jar. Add any spices you like, then seal the jar up and rotate it a few times to dissolve the salt.

Place it somewhere relatively cool, but prominent enough that you'll walk by a few times a day and remember to rotate the jar. After about a week, move the jar to the refrigerator (or leave in a cool place) and let the lemons cure at least two more weeks. 

The preserved lemons are ready once the rinds are tender and lightly translucent, but the longer you leave them, the better the flavor. Rinse to remove some salt and add minced rinds to tons of savory recipes, and the pulp to broths or braises. They'll keep for a year in the fridge, or potentially longer as long as they're covered in brine.

Now what to do with your citrusy treats? More recipes from NPR here, and tons from Food52 here!

preserved lemons with black peppercorns




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