Parents Need to Eat Too

Preserved Lemons, Part 1

Preserved Lemons, Part 1

As soon as I saw this recipe for Israeli Couscous with Butternut Squash and Preserved Lemons on David Lebovitz’s site, I knew I had to make it. Of course, the fact that I didn’t have any preserved lemons on hand was a small problem. I moaned to that effect on Facebook, and was immediately (but gently) slapped down by a friend for not just making some myself. Naturally, this sent me off in search of a recipe.

It turns out that preserved lemons are ridiculously easy to make, and barely even constitute a recipe at all. Lemons, meet kosher salt. Maybe a cinnamon stick or some cumin seeds want to join the party, maybe not. Done.

Now, mine aren’t done yet—I just put them into the jar today—so who knows, things might yet go terribly wrong. But since every single recipe I found uses essentially the same technique, I’m pretty confident that this is going to work out just fine. And once the lemons are ready, I’ll make that fantastic-looking couscous dish and report back. Good lord, how am I going to wait an entire month?

Preserved Lemons
Makes as many as your jar will hold

4-5 large lemons [I fit 4 Meyers into my quart jar]
kosher salt
cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, bay leaf, etc (all optional)

Put a few tablespoons of kosher salt in the bottom of a clean jar with a tight sealing lid [I used a 1-quart mason jar].

Scrub lemons with a vegetable brush and dry. Over a plate to catch the juice, cut each lemon lengthwise into quarters—but don’t cut all the way through. Leave the wedges attached at the stem end (see photo above). Sprinkle kosher salt all over the exposed lemon, then stuff it into the jar. [I had to cut my lemons into two halves in order to fit them through the mouth of the jar.] Sprinkle some more salt on top, then repeat with the rest of your lemons. If you’re using any spices, add them in between layers. Push down on each lemon as you add it—you want to release the juice, plus you’ll be able to cram more into the jar. Top it off with whatever juice has pooled on the plate, and more salt.

Set the jar on the counter, and give it a turn/shake every day or two. The lemons should be covered in liquid within the first few days—if they’re not, add enough fresh lemon juice to cover. [Mine are covered in juice already, probably because I really did have to shove pretty hard to fit four lemons in there.] They’ll be ready in approximately one month.

Some recipes call for refrigeration and others don’t, but since my jar isn’t sterilized I intend to, once the month-long cure is over.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. I so needed to know this! Thank you for pulling the information together – I also ran across a recipe recently calling for preserved lemons and was wondering how I could get my hands on some. Turns out it is as easy as visiting my backyard 😉

  2. Well, I've got a tree full of lemons in the backyard so it seems I should give this a try! Nice photos, btw.

  3. Look at you two, lemon trees in the backyard. We so don't have that in Brooklyn.

  4. My brother in law and I were just talking about preserved lemons this week. I really need to try my hand at this.

  5. I can't wait for part 2! This is something that I have been longing to learn. we have this lemon tree at home and we just take it for granted.

  6. Add me to the lemon tree in the yard crowd. I never know what to do with them. This looks easy…but other than the couscous, what do you do with them? Help please!

  7. Until today, if I saw "preserved lemons" on an ingredient list, I would either use a normal lemon or no lemon at all. Thank you for enlightening me as to what this suckers actually are. Now, just need mason jars…

  8. Stephanie, definitely try it! I was shocked to discover how simple it is.

    Kitchen table, part 2 will probably be just a photograph or two–I'm hoping to record the weekly progress of the lemons. And when all is said & done, I'll do a post about actually using them!

    Amber, I found this conversation on Chowhound a while back, full of good ideas: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/475743

    Alisa, you're welcome! I've seen jars of preserved lemons in fancy food stores for beaucoup bucks, so it was doubly shocking when I learned what they really are. So cheap! So easy!

  9. Have never heard of this. What other dishes call for preserved lemons? Perhaps that will be your next post? I don't have a lemon tree here either. Think I would go to the health food store for organic lemons, rather than make this with regular store bought, even when scrubbed.

  10. I've heard of them but never used them. I've got to try this.

  11. I've always wanted to make these, but never got around to it. Great post!

  12. This is exactly the inspiration I needed for a good homemade holiday present for my foodie family and friends. Everyone's kind of tired of my chutney and pickles.

  13. This is interesting. I love anything Lebovitz does. I'm sure this is a fabulous recipe.

  14. Alexandra, that link to Chow.com in my comment right above yours has some really good ideas for using the lemons.

    and Jody, gifting these is a fabulous idea! You could attach a recipe or two and they'd be so sweet.

  15. I saw this when it first posted and it just popped into my mind when my aunt sent over a bag of lemons from her tree. I just started a batch preserving, I don't have any big mason jars but I put wedges into a smaller jar and am hoping for a decent "experimental" batch. I added cinnamon stick to mine. Can't wait to see your results! I love your blog!

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