A few years ago I had no idea what Moroccan Preserved Lemons were until I came across a recipe in a magazine. I certainly had never seen anything like them on the grocery store shelves, but the more I read the more intrigued I became. So, I decided to try my hand at making a batch. My verdict? So worth the thirty days wait until they were ready! Preserved lemons have such a unique pickled taste with a bold burst of fresh lemon. Having a jar handy in the fridge will quickly transform your roast chicken into a gourmet meal.
Just what is a preserved lemon anyway? It’s a lemon preserved or pickled in salt and is used often in Moroccan cooking. The flavour is mildly tart, yet with no bitter aftertaste. The whole lemon including the peel is eaten, as well as the juice, and the lemons can be finely diced and added to dips, or sliced thinly for roasts like lamb or chicken. Use a teaspoon or two of the juice in your salad dressings and I am sure you will agree that just for the salad dressings alone it’s worth making a jar.
Preserved lemons are so easy to make, but patience is needed because they aren’t cured or ready to eat for thirty days. Once they are ready they will keep for over a year (that would never happen in this household) if stored in the refrigerator. In my photos, you see that I threw in a couple of Meyer lemons that I had on hand (I know, they look like an orange, after all, Meyer lemons are a cross between a mandarin and lemon). Next time I will make a whole jar as they are the ideal lemon because of their thin skin. Meyer lemons are usually available in January and February.
What else can I do with a preserved lemon? The possibilities are endless! Try it finely diced in tartar sauce, hummus, guacamole, or tzatziki, also with rice, quinoa or in pasta. Enhance chicken, lamb, fish, seafood, drinks (Bloody Mary’s) and salads. One thing to remember is that it’s a condiment, so use it sparingly. Some folks rinse off the lemons before using, I prefer to use a little less lemon or cut back on the salt in the dish I am making.
- 8 juicy lemons with thin skins (2 of the lemons will be used for juice)
- 1/2 cup sea salt
- 1 or 2 bay leaves (for flavour only, they are inedible)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 wide mouth jar that has been well cleaned (sterilized).
- Wash lemons and remove the stem end.
- Juice two of the lemons and set aside. Make 4 slits lengthwise on each side of lemon keeping 1/2 inches away from the ends (you want the lemon to stay together). Place lemons in a large bowl then gently open the slits and pack salt into the cut edges. Don’t worry if the lemons pull apart, the goal is to infuse salt into them. They will be scrunched in the jar.
- Spoon a layer of salt into the bottom of a well cleaned (sterilized) wide mouth jar. Keep the metal wire of the lid away from the juice, or use nonreactive glass lids.
- Pack half the lemons into the jar, pressing them firmly down. Add the cinnamon stick, and bay leaves. Continue with the rest of the lemons and salt. Add the juice from the two lemons.
- Ideally, you want to cover over the lemons with juice. As the lemons sit in the salt they will produce a bit more juice.
- Store in a cool place for one week, making sure to swirl the juice around once or twice a day to mix in the salt.
- After one week, place the jar in the refrigerator and keep for three more weeks before using.
- Every day or so, carefully tip the juices around the jar to cover any lemons that might not be completely covered.