Thursday, August 14, 2008

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

LEMONS ABOUND IN CALIFORNIA. It seems like everyone has a lemon tree - except me. Fortunately, none of those folks know what to do with all their lemons and they are more than happy to have some help clearing lemons off the tree so they don't have to pick up moldy lemons from the ground.


I like to juice up a big pile of lemons and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. I also save the zest and freeze it -- it's very usable for other recipes this way. Of course, there's the lemon chutney, lemon bars, and preserved Moroccan lemons.

When I first researched this, I found a lot of recipes out there -- the process is fairly straight forward and simple, varying only in quantities and spices.

For spices, pick your spices based on what you have at hand and when it comes to dried spices, make sure that what you have that isn't a million years old (throw out the old stuff in the compost heap). I used cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, coriander seed and bay. Check the different recipes for quantities and add to taste. Experiment with different levels of spices in different jars -- it's up to you!

  1. Sterilize your mason jars. Put some of the spices in the bottom of the clean jars, along with a couple tablespoons of salt. Save the cinnamon sticks and some of the other spices to add between the layers.
  2. Scrub your lemons very well. Trim any bad spots & trim off the stem end.
  3. Cut your lemon lengthwise almost to the end, then turn it over and cut from the other direction so it is quartered but still attached at both ends.
  4. Stuff as much kosher or sea salt into your lemon, then smash it into a sterilized mason jar using a wooden pestle -- press it down into the jar to get it to release more lemon.
  5. Add another layer of salt, a sprinkle of dried spices, and another salt-stuffed lemon.
  6. Once the jar has enough lemons, press them down and release more juice. Pour more freshly squeezed lemon juice on top to cover. Slide in the bay and the cinnamon along the side of the jar, and get the bubbles out with a butter knife or thin spatula.
The lemons I preserved in the last batch were from my sister's lemon tree -- the lemons are softball size. I found that I could get two of these monsters into a pint, but it was a struggle getting them in there (releasing a lot of juice in the process).

Screw on the lids and put aside for a few weeks. These should be ready in 4-6 weeks.

  • Pull lemons out using a clean utensil, not your fingers or any utensil that has been used on something else.
  • Add more lemon juice and lemons as you go along -- if you squeeze a lemon, throw the squeezed (squoze?) half into the jar and push down. The brine and juice will do their thing and you can keep a jar going for a while.
Recipe links:


Anonymous said...

Hi there! I totally love preserved lemons, though my meyer lemon tree is a pretty sad sight right now. When I was in India, I had these amazing preserved limes with chiles that were served with everything. I need to try and find/fiugre out a recipe for those and I'll get back to you. PS. Do you live in San Francisco?

Anonymous said...

I've never had preserved lemons but I'm really intrigued now. I used to have a lemon tree when I lived in CA but it was way before I cared much about baking or cooking and I (ashamedly) let quite a few fall and mold on the ground. Agh! What was I thinking??