Have you ever looked through a cookbook and you find a recipe think you’d love, but it has an ingredient you’ve never heard of and you just don’t want to deal with it so you turn the page and decide to make something else? Preserved lemons always used to capture that feeling for me. They are almost impossible to find in stores, and few cookbooks give clear directions on how to make them at home. The truth is that they are incredibly easy to make and essential to many Moroccan, Middle Eastern and even Mediterranean dishes. They have become an essential ingredient in our house and we regularly teach students how to make them in our Spice Market classes.
This ingredient is seemingly exotic but oh-so-simple and will give so much zest to your meals that I just had to share it. Preserved lemons are tangy and have an interesting texture, a perfect addition to grilled meats in the summer, stews in the winter, or cous cous year round. Here’s how you make them:
First, try and find small and ripe organic lemons. You will need between 8 and 12 of them, along with ¼ cup kosher salt and a one quart sterilized canning jar. Wash lemons thoroughly. Remember, you will be eating the peel, not the pulp. Cut a thin slice from the top and bottom of the lemons.
Make four deep vertical cuts three-quarters of the way down the fruit, but make sure the lemon is still attached at the base.
Place a generous tablespoon of salt on the bottom of the sterile jar.
Carefully open a lemon and generously sprinkle salt evenly throughout the quarters (about one generous teaspoon per lemon).
Place the lemon in the jar.
Repeat the process of salting and stuffing the lemons in the jar, making sure to press the lemons down hard with a clean spoon to release the juices and make room for the remaining lemons.
When the jar is full, place the remaining salt in the jar (it should be at least a tablespoon) and fill in the gaps with fresh lemon juice. Store the lemons in a cool place for at least a month, and shake the jar daily to evenly distribute the salt and juice
When the lemons are ready for use, rinse the lemons as needed, or else they will be too salty. Cut away the pulp inside and then slice or chop the rind according to the recipe you are using. Preserved lemons will keep for at least 6 months before opening the jar, but do refrigerate them once they are opened. Enjoy!