Sunday, February 20, 2011

Homemade Preserved Lemons.

Last weekend, we spent a weekend out of the city in Ojai, California.  I came back with a bag full of Eureka lemons picked off of the trees at the place we stayed. That's why I can call these homemade lemons.  My cousin-in-law made them, or, allowed them to flourish, anyway.

This is my favorite kind of recipe, because it doesn't involve set amounts of things.  Take a bunch of lemons, a bunch of salt, add in spices you think you will like to use on a chicken or fish dish a month from now, jam them all into a jar, seal, shake, wait, use. Love it.

Preserved Lemons Two Ways with Cardamom, Cinnamon, Bay and Peppercorns
Burwell General Store
Makes one six-ounce jar of spiced lemons and two 3/4 liter jars of plain lemons.

one six-ounce resealable jar
two 3/4 liter resealable jars (I found these at Sur La Table for $4 each)

about 15 ripe medium-sized lemons
about a cup and a half of fine sea salt (Nothing mined or iodized. You're preserving lemons, not pummeling them.)
one bay leaf
three pink peppercorns
a piece of a cinnamon stick
one cardamom pod

1. Cut about a quarter inch off each end of the lemons to expose flesh. Turn on end and make a cut almost down to the bottom but not separating the lemon, about 3/4 of the way down. Turn the lemon onto its other flat end and make a cut perpendicular to the first one 3/4 of the way down the lemon. Do this with all the lemons, and rub salt in the cuts.
2. In your jars, pour about a half inch of sea salt to cover the bottoms.  Start packing in the lemons.  As you squeeze them down, they will give juice.  Salt each layer in between the lemons.  Packing as tightly as you can, add spices to the small Ball jar, salt the top, seal, and shake vigorously. With the remaining two jars, salt and pack in the lemons without spices, then seal and shake vigorously.
3. Leave the jars on a shelf that does not get direct sunlight and shake every day for a month.  The jar will gradually fill up with juices, if it doesn't make it to 3/4 full in the first two days, add some fresh-squeezed lemon juice to the jars. This should be the only time you open the jar until they are ready to use. They should keep for a year.

Notes: The jars are really pretty, and if you put them on a kitchen shelf are like nature's sticky notes, serving as visible reminders to agitate them every day. This also makes it difficult to let them sit for a month before digging into them.  When they are ready to use, rinse them thoroughly to remove excess salt before adding to a dish.  Happy preserving!

How would you like to see these used a month from now?  Let me know, and I'll start developing recipes to test and post when they are ready!


  1. I love this! Anything that can be made at home like this is perfect in my book. So simple too. I am intrigued how you'll use them and what their texture will be after a month. Please 'report back'. Is there a happier thing to face in one's kitchen daily? I think not.

  2. I have a zillion lemons on my counter right now. What do you do with them after you preserve them? Can I use the same recipe for grapefruit?

  3. Grapefruit and oranges are too sweet to preserve in salt, I have reasoned. I use preserved lemons to flavor rice, tagines/stews, broths. I have stuffed lemon slices under chicken skin on breasts, put on top of fish and baked, given away as gifts... Also I recommend one does refrigerate after the jar is unsealed.


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