I absolutely love using preserved lemons in my cooking. I use them in Middle Eastern recipes such as tagine and pilaf, but also to give a flavour lift to other dishes such as risotto and pasta or as a stuffing for chicken or lamb. My only issue is that I tend to go through the preserved lemons quickly and given I usually buy them from specialty stores, they are not cheap.
Last year Saskia found a bounty of lemons on a tree overhanging our back lane (it was in the public space!). Saskia used these to make preserved lemons and kindly gave me a jar of them. I recently finished up the jar and decided it was time to try preserving for myself.
While lemons are available all year, the peak season for lemons is from April to October. I caught up with my mate M recently and while dropping her home couldn’t help but notice the enormous lemon tree in her front yard that was literally heaving with fruit. The next time we caught up she provided me with a bag a full of them!
Making preserved lemons is so ridiculously easy I cannot believe I have never made them before. Simply quarter the lemons, massage them in salt and pack tightly into a preserving jar with bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and black peppercorns. Then just leave them in a cool, dark place for a month or so and they are ready to use. There are plenty of lemons about this time of year so get preserving!
Adapted from Stephanie Alexander
250g coarse kitchen salt
10 or more thick skinned lemons (depends on the size of your jar)
2 bay leaves, torn into pieces
2 sticks of cinnamon, broken into shards
extra lemon juice
- First, sterlise your jar. You can do this by washing the jars in soap and water, boiling them on the stove in a stockpot for 10 minutes, then draining on a towel and placing in a 150C oven until dried thoroughly. Fill the jars while hot.
- Alternatively, you can wash the jars in soap and water, then put them through the dishwasher by themselves on the hottest setting, without adding detergent.
- Scrub the lemons clean, then chop into quarters. Discard any lemons with imperfections.
- Scatter a large tablespoon of salt into your sterilised jar.
- Place the lemons into a large bowl and cover with remaining salt:
- Massage the salt into the fruit:
- Pack tightly into the jar, skin side out, inserting pieces of bay leaf, pepper, cloves and cinnamon at intervals.
- Press down hard on the fruit so that as much juice is released as possible.
- Make sure that the lemons are completely covered in juice, otherwise mould will develop. If required, squeeze extra juice into the jar to cover the lemons:
- Dip a clean cloth in boiling water and wipe the cap of the jar free of salt. Tightly close the lid.
- Leave in a cool, dark cupboard for at least a month before using. Refrigerate the lemons once you have opened the jar.
- Enjoy! Once my lemons are ready to eat I will make and post some of my favourite recipes. I think chicken tagine will be on the list!