Any kind of lemon can be preserved, but I prefer to use the smooth-skinned and slightly sweet Meyer lemons. Sometimes they are preserved whole, other times in halves. I like to preserve wedges. To use lemons in recipes, the pulp is scraped away from the peel, which is quite easy to do once they are soft from fermenting for a month or more, and even easier when you are working with a wedge.
The chopped preserved lemon peels can be used many different ways, and in several different cuisines. Moroccan tagines may be the most common place where preserved lemons are used, but their unique flavor can also found in Asian dishes and the briny acidity works wonderfully with otherwise rich seafood, and creamy pasta and arborio rice dishes.
Makes one pint-size jar
- 6 lemons (preferably Meyer), 3 cut into wedges, 3 left whole
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup good quality sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds (optional)
1.) Cut 3 lemons into wedges, then use the tip of the knife to pick out the seeds.
2.) Lay a spotlessly clean jar on it's side. Place wedges into the jar -- length-wise -- in one layer. If it's a tall jar, you will end up with 2 or 3 layers. If it's a squat* jar, you might only have one layer plus room for a few on their sides on the top. Note: When the jar is about half full, slide the bay leaf vertically down the inside of the jar. If the jar is too full, the leaf might not fit, and if it's not full enough, the leaf won't stay in place.
3.) If you are going to have room for 3 layers, sprinkle 1/3 of the salt, 1/3 of the black peppercorns and 1/3 of the coriander seeds (if using) on top of the wedges and then repeat the process until the jar is full. You are aiming for an even distribution of salt and spices.
4.) At this point, the jar should be packed full, and you can then slice the remaining lemons in half one at a time, juicing them into the jar, until the wedges are covered with juice. You might only need 2 of the lemons, depending on how juicy your lemons are. (To maximize juice output, microwave the lemons for 10 seconds (or boil for 2 minutes) then roll the lemon around on the counter, while pressing down firmly, for several seconds before slicing in half to juice.)
4.) If there are any air bubbles, use a chopstick or thin-bladed knife to release air bubbles.
5.) Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. Let ripen for 30 days.
6.) To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under running water, removing and discarding the pulp if desired. I prefer to refrigerate them after opening, but some people don't!
I think all parts of the preserved lemons are delicious. Peels can be chopped, pulp pureed in dressings and sauces and the liquid is refreshing in beverages. Can you say Dirty Meyer Lemon Martini?
Preserved lemons will keep up to a year.
*In my photos, I was using a squat-shaped jar, and basically only had one layer, so I added all of the spices & salt at once, using the end of a long-handled spoon to both remove air bubbles and incorporate the sea salt.