Updated: Jul 19
It's no secret that I love citrus. A quick look at my Shop reveals no fewer than 10 spice blends that include one type of citrus or another as a key ingredient. But when I'm looking for a really bright pop of lemon, I almost always turn to Preserved Lemons. An ingredient found in many of my favorite Moroccan (and other North African/Middle Eastern) dishes, Preserved Lemons are this perfect combination of salty and sour and should absolutely be present in any well-stocked pantry. I love to sprinkle it on seafood, mix it into homemade tzaziki, or add it to vinaigrettes, and it's one of my favorite additions to any dish that uses my Five-Chile Harissa, such as this Spicy Crab Pasta with Harissa and Preserved Lemon, or this One-Pan Harissa Chicken Thighs with Brussels Sprout and Kale Orzo, or this Harissa and White Bean Stew.
Though you can find Preserved Lemons in most specialty grocery stores these days (or in my Shop), they are actually quite easy to make yourself, provided you have the foresight to plan ahead, as they require at least 30 days to cure or ripen. I love preparing several jars whenever I have extra lemons laying around (or when my neighbors bring me a big ol' bag of fruit from their tree!). They keep for up to a year, so don't be afraid to make several jars at a time. You'll either have plenty on hand for when you start using them in basically everything you cook or you'll have a stash of perfect gifts for all your favorite foodies.
So let's get preserving, shall we?
Makes two 8-ounce jars (feel free to scale up)
About 6 medium lemons
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
Kosher salt (I like Diamond Crystal brand the best)
Place two 8-ounce glass canning jars and their lids in a pot large enough to completely cover them with water. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes to sterilize. Use tongs to remove the jars and lids and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, soak lemons in a large bowl of water with distilled white vinegar for 10-15 minutes. Rinse lemons and discard vinegar water.
Using a sharp paring knife, cut the lemons into quarters from the top to about 1/2-inch from the bottom, leaving them intact at the bottom.
Spread the quarters open enough to sprinkle the flesh generously with kosher salt.
Place about a tablespoon of salt in the bottom of each mason jar. Place 2 1/2 to 3 lemons in each jar, adding a layer of salt in between each layer of lemons and pressing the lemons down to release juice and pack them in the jar as tightly as possible. Finish with a layer of salt. If the juice released naturally from the lemons does not cover the entire contents of the jar, add more fresh lemon juice as needed to cover, leaving about 1/4 inch of air space in the jar. Wipe the rims of the jars to remove any salt and juice and seal the jars tightly.
Place the jars in a cool, dark place and allow to ripen for at least 30 days, shaking the jars vigorously once a day to distribute the salt and juice. The salty juice will develop in a thick, viscous liquid over the 30 days of ripening, and you'll notice the lemon peels will start to look more translucent and soft.
Here's what they look like when they're fully ripened and ready to use...
To use, remove a lemon wedge from the jar. Discard the pulp (it'll be WAY too salty to use). Rinse the peel and then slice or mince as desired.
Use anywhere a recipe calls for lemon zest to add a bright note of lemon.
Unopened jars do not need to be refrigerated and will keep up to a year, making them an excellent gift for the foodie in your life.