Preserved lemons

Nothing sour about this story!

When friend Alex gifted me a large bag of freshly picked lemons from her tree, immediately I knew that their preservation would be my first priority. As it happens, there were way too many for the jars I selected and now I look forward to incorporating lemons into my meals everyday – until I run out. By comparison my lemon tree is young and, while producing well, it’s a small annual crop at this stage.

Many different methods are touted as best for preserving lemons. I will describe and show you my method – one that couldn’t be simpler.

I scald glass jars and lids and dry thoroughly. Then I wash/scrub the surface of the lemon to remove air pollution or general handling. Note: all the skin and the flesh will be preserved. The stalk of each lemon is sliced off, then wedges are cut (these can be whatever size suits – some recipes preserve half lemons, some quarter lemons – my latest batch consisted of 6 wedges per lemon). I prod and push to remove all the pips.

Into the base of a jar I pour salt to cover, then drop in the wedges from the first lemon.

With lid closed tightly I shake the contents to coat the lemon with salt. Open up. With more wedges I repeat the process until I can press the last wedges tightly to fill at jar height level. More salt is poured before tightening the lid of the jar.

I rest the jar upside down to let juices and salt mingle and when bored by waiting, give the jar a shake or two and leave upright.

In a dark cupboard the jars are initially stored upside down. On day two I turn them right side up and then leave and forget. The longer the jars are left the softer the lemon rinds become so that the contents become somewhat of a homogenous glue.

I start using these after a few months but the timing of use choice is yours. Over time the colour of the mixture changes from the bright yellow of the freshly picked lemons to a brownish colour – but they are still edible. Besides, if you don’t use them until that ‘aged’ stage then, when cooked in a meal you do not see them; they dissolve into the meal. The following photos show my new jars compared to one filled in July 2021 – one that I am still using with delight.

How do you use your preserved lemons? They can be used in vegetable and meat dishes. One piece from my jars (don’t wash off the salt), chopped finely and stirred evenly through the vegetable mix, is enough for a meal for one. For incorporating within meat dishes, I recommend you experiment with placing preserved wedges of the lemon and learn the locations for the best effect.

Usually I try a Moroccan or middle eastern approach with appropriate spicy flavours, and perhaps include pitted dates. This gives the dish saltiness, sweetness and the occasional tang from the lemon. Wonderfully delicious. Please let me know your successful experiments and recipes.

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2 Responses to Preserved lemons

  1. Lyn Donnelly says:

    My lemon trees are very young, but am hopeful they will eventually produce. Thanks for the preservation process, I will give it a go.


    • Meant to say a plastic rather than a metal lid is preferable because the salt will corrode. Second tip – dont leave the jars upside down for long in case they leak. If you are lucky someone will give you a bag and then you can start preserving.


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