Be prepared to use almost 50% of your lemons for their juice, while the rest will be cut and placed in the jars for preserving. The better job you do of squashing those lemons into the jar, the less juice you’ll need to “fill the space” in the jar afterward. This whole project can get a little messy, so clear yourself some counter space.
This recipe produces a pretty strong-flavored preserved lemon, with an almost pine-y flavor that I really like. For another recipe that has a cleaner, milder flavor, check out the recipe in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.
- 4 lemons
- 3-4 T sea salt
- Juice of additional lemons, or more to taste
- a few optional spices like corriander seed
Wash and scrub the lemons. Cut each lemon in quarters but not right through, so that the pieces are still attached at the stem end. Stuff each with some of the salt, squeezing it closed. Put them in a sterilized preserving jar, pressing them down so that they are squashed together. Add the remaining salt to the jar. Pour in enough fresh lemon juice to fill the jar.
Really, you should put them in a sterilizing water bath for safety’s sake…
Leave for 3-4 days, turning the jar upside-down, every day to help dissolve the salt. Then, leave in a cool place for at least a month. This “curing” process is where the flavor develops. The longer they are left, the better the flavor. By the time they are fully cured, you’ll notice that the liquid in the jar gets really cloudy- this is normal. (If a piece of lemon is not covered, it develops a white mold that is harmless and just needs to be washed off).
Before using, scoop out and discard the pulp and rinse the lemon peel under the tap to get rid of the salt. (By the way, if you decide to use the Zuni Cafe Cookbook recipe, you can use the pulp too, as it doesn’t get as broken down (thus leaving the liquid nice and clear.)
Preserved lemon can be used in all kinds of recipes. Anything that could benefit from a little salty-pungency would love it. (Think of places that you’d add capers)
- A relish with celery, nuts, preserved lemon and shallots
- Toss some into a braised chicken leg dish with onions and a little canned tomato
- Remember that yummy elixer we slurped on Christmas eve? We made that by stirring chopped lemon into a full-flavored chicken broth (that one had duck-leg braising liquid in it, and we stirred in the shredded duck meat).
There’s also another recipe for “quick preserved lemons” that I’ve been wanting to try and it goes like this:
With a sharp knife, make a superficial, not deep, inciscion into the lemon’s skin from one end to the other. Put the lemons in a large pan with salted sater (4T salt for 4 lemons) to cover. Put a smaller lid on top of them to weigh them down since they float, and boil for about 25 minutes, or until the peel is very soft, then drain. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, pack the skins in a glass far and cover with light vegetable oil.