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.