apr 9, 2020

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are like edible rays of sunshine captured in a jar. They add zippy contrast to hearty stews and are a superb topping for grilled and roasted veggies, fish, chicken, and lamb. You can add them to salad dressings or serve them as a condiment on a cheese platter. If you have lemons to spare, they also make terrific gifts.
Salt mellows and deepens the lemons’ sharp citrus taste and tames their natural bitterness. The mellow fermentation process also softens the lemon skins, so they’re lovely to dice up and eat.
The preserving process works equally well at cool room temperature (away from sunlight) or in the refrigerator. We like to turn the jar over or shake it a couple of times a day for the first few days. Then let them sit, turning them occasionally, for about a month. They’re ready to use when the skins are soft all the way through and easily pierced with a fork. After opening, we refrigerate and continue to use them for up to a year.
To use: Scrape the pulp and chop up the skin. We usually discard the pulp, but in some batches, it’s been so delicious, we chop it up with the skin and eat it.
Our thanks to instructor Kathryn Phelan for the below recipe. It’s full of kitchen wisdom to guide you. Should you need assistance or have additional questions, please Email us. We’re here to help!

Preserved Lemons

Fermented and Pickled Citrus

Author Kathryn Phelan

Growing up in San Diego surrounded by citrus groves, I was influenced early by the intoxicating aromas, range of flavour and versatility of lemons. If you are lucky enough to live near a citrus tree, you know that when they produce, there is A LOT of fruit! This preservation method is wonderful for its flexibility in adjusting to batch size - perfect for bumper crops, and equally so for a bowlful of leftover fruit. After salting cut lemons and waiting patiently (only 24 hours or so), they will release their juice, dissolve the salt and create their own brine for self-preservation.

Adapted from: Paula Wolfort, Couscous and other Good Foods from Morocco, 1973
Prep Time   15 minutes
Cook Time   0 minutes


5 lemons (or limes, sour oranges, tart grapefruit - any acidic citrus)*

6-12 tablespoons kosher salt (Diamond Crystal Brand)**

Optional: bay leaf, whole black peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon stick


Clean glass jar (widemouth quart Mason jar or similar style)

Plastic or other non-reactive lid

Optional: plastic gloves (if your hands are sensitive to acidity or salt)


1. With a sharp knife, quarter the lemons lengthwise, starting at the bottom and stopping ¾ of the way through. Each lemon will be partially cut into four sections held together by the stem end.
2. Pour 1 tablespoon of kosher salt into the bottom of your jar.
3. Hold a cut lemon in your palm with the cut sections up and open. Position your hand with the lemon over a bowl and sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoon(s) of salt into the center (depending on the size of your fruit). Close the sections up around the salt, reforming the lemon shape, and set into your jar stem side down.
4. Repeat with each lemon, squeezing them in tightly next to each other in the jar.
5. Cover with a non-reactive closure*** to keep out curious flying insects!
6. Label your jar with its name and date, set aside in an area away from direct sunlight, and wait patiently...
7. 24-36 hours after jarring, your citrus should be covered in its own brine. If not, lend a hand and add in the juice of a few freshly squeezed lemons to help the progress along.
8. After about 1 month, your lemons will be transformed through a gentle fermentation and pickling from their familiar sharp, bright and tangy flavour to a deeper, mellowed out and earthier essence - still recognizable as lemon, but more robust and layered with intensity.


* If you are purchasing lemons, look for organic ones to minimize exposure to pesticides (especially as you'll be using the outer peel). Rub purchased lemons with a soft cloth and distilled vinegar to clean any wax residue off of the surface.
** There are two main brands of Kosher Salt and, unfortunately, they are NOT interchangeable in recipes.
Morton is rolled into flat & compressed flakes, it is heavier by volume with a higher salt concentration.
Diamond Crystal is air dried, which leads to a lighter pyramidal crystalline structure.
This recipe has been calibrated for the use of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. If all you have is Morton's, fear not! Use half of the required salt amount, and all will be fine.
Do not substitute Iodized Salt, often called "table salt", for Kosher Salt - the added iodine and anti-caking agents will interfere with our intended goal of fermentation and preservation.
*** Traditional metal bands will rust. If you do not have a plastic lid, cut a square of finely woven cloth and secure it over the jar opening with a rubber band or string.