Sunday, March 30, 2014

Preserved Meyer Lemons

Preserved lemons, most often associated with Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, make a flavorful addition to many dishes. In fact, preserved lemons appear in several cuisines, the world over. In Morocco, preserved lemons are traditionally incorporated into tagines or stews, fish dishes, and couscous. The unique tart and salty lemons add a great depth of favor to many American dishes as well, particularly throughout the spring and summer.

If seeing the word "preserved" sends a shiver down your spine, never fear! In fact, you need no previous knowledge of preserving or canning to master this recipe. Essentially, the lemons are preserved packed in salt, making this recipe so simple, a child could do it! There's no fretting over whether the jar sealed properly or not etc.

You may be asking, "why preserve lemons at all?" That's not a bad question, seeing as lemons are in abundance all year long; preserving them seems unnecessary. For me, it's nice to know you always have them on hand. In addition, the preserving process makes the lemon rinds entirely soft and edible, as well as intensely lemony.  Since Meyer lemon rinds are softer than the conventional variety to begin with, they're an ideal choice for preserving. Also, it's a great way to enjoy Meyer lemons all year long, as they have a relatively short season.  

I've kept the seasonings in my version pretty basic to accommodate a variety of dishes. But feel free to add other spices to the lemons, such as mustard seed, cinnamon, and cloves. Preserved lemons are particularly tasty finely diced and added to salad, dressings, salsa, ceviche, and even gremolata. Quite simply, they can be incorporated in anything where fresh ones are, so the possibilities are endless!

Adapted from The River Cottage Preserves Handbook, by Pam Corbin and Tart and Sweet, by Kelley Geary and Jessie Knadler 

Yield: 2 pint jars or 1 quart jar

10 to 12 Meyer lemons
Kosher or sea salt, as needed
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Sterilize 2 pint canning jars or 1 quart canning jar (submerge them by 1 inch in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes). Put 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns, and 1 bay leaf into the bottom of each jar (or 2 tablespoons salt, 1 teaspoons peppercorns and 2 bay leaves is using a 1 quart jar).

Juice two of the lemons and set aside. Cut 1/4 inch from both ends of the remaining lemons. Cut a deep X in the lemons lengthwise, being careful not to trim all the way through (leave about 1/2 inch uncut so they're still attached on one end). The lemons should resemble a four-petal tulip. Pack each lemon opening with as much salt as possible (don't worry, you can't overdo it). 

Tightly pack the lemons into the jar(s), squishing them down with a wooden spoon to release their juices. Top the lemons with enough lemon juice to cover, leaving a head-space of 1/2 inch. Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth and secure the lids.

Leave the jar(s) to sit out at room temperature for about a month. Continue pushing down the lemons with a wooden spoon every few days, adding fresh lemon juice to cover as needed. After a month, when the lemon rinds have softened, transfer the jars to the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to a year. 


  • If the lemons seem especially waxy, blanch them in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to remove their wax. Wipe them dry with a clean cloth before proceeding with the recipe. 
  • Give the preserved lemons a quick rinse to remove the excess salt before adding them to your favorite dishes.

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