How to preserve lemons
A staple in North African cooking preserved lemons are whole lemons that have been preserved for several weeks in salt and lemon juice or brine and often flavoured with herbs and spices.
The resulting lemon peel with a salty kick is so worth the wait as it gives a brilliant tangy addition to many dishes.
You will need
10 – 15 fresh, firm, unwaxed lemons that feel heavy for their size
2 x 500g/1lb 2oz sealable Kilner-type jars.
¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt per lemon
Optional herbs and spices such as dried red chillies, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, peppercorns, etc
What to do
Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1
Clean the jars either by washing them well in warm soapy water and rinsing thoroughly or by putting them through the hot cycle of a dishwasher. Leave the jars and lids to dry, upside down or in the oven.
Cut off and discard the stem ends of the lemons then cut each lemon into quarters lengthwise, but not all the way through. Stop cutting about 1/2 inch short, leaving enough rind intact to hold the fruit together. If you cut too far and a lemon falls into quarters, don’t worry, it’s still completely usable, it just won’t look as pretty sitting in the jar!
Over a large bowl to catch the juice, use your thumb to carefully squeeze out the juice from each lemon quarter.
Over the same large bowl sprinkle the inside of each “juiced” lemon with 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt, working as much of the salt as possible into the lemon flesh as you go.
Tightly pack the juiced, salted lemons into the sterilised jars. Poke the herbs and spices, if using, around the lemons.
Pour the salty juice you collected in the big bowl over the lemons. Add more lemon juice to cover, if necessary. Seal and set the jars on the kitchen counter or other cool, dark spot for 30 days, shaking and turning them regularly.
After about a month, the rind will have cured and softened and mellowed and the lemons will be ready to use.
The jars can then be kept in a fridge for up to 6 months.
When you use them the only part of the lemon you need is the rind – scrape away the pith and flesh. Rinse the salted rind quickly in cool water if you like and then chop finely.
Try a little stirred into mashed potato, or in rice, served with fish.
Melina - Assistant Editor
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