Preserved Lemons

I’m writing this blog post from the sofa with my legs up and Suits on the TV in the background. The apartment is all quiet and has been this entire Weekend. Mikkel and August went to visit the grandparents, leaving me home alone for the first time since August was born. As much as enjoy my alone time I can’t wait until they walk in the front door and August starts to pulls out his LEGO, empties the rest of the toy-box on the living room floor with a big smile on his face, before moving on to clear our bookshelf. He repeats this routine daily and gets really upset if we interrupt these ‘busy baby plans’, as we call them.

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My routines are of another kind. I cook, bake, and preserve. And that’s what I’ll  be talking about today;  how to preserve lemons, to be precise. A indispensable condiment of Moroccan cooking and now a staple in my Danish kitchen.

They caught my interest years ago during a trip to Marrakesh where they are sold in the busy souks. I’ve been completely captivated by it’s unique pickled taste. However, it is very intense, so be warned; a little goes a long way. If you would like to integrate it into your cooking a good place to start is to add it to any dish that would benefit from acid and salt – like this Cavolo Nero & Preserved Lemon Linguine.

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Preserved lemons only take two minutes to prepare, and all you need to get started is lemons, sea salt, and a jar with a airtight lid. If you like, you can add spices. The classic combination of bay leaves, cloves, and cinnamon is always a winner, but you can try other combinations, too. I personally like the mix of rose pepper, fennel seeds, and bay leaves.

The one crucial thing to keep in mind when preserving lemons is to be certain the lemons are completely covered in salted lemon juice. I let mine sit on the counter and shake them periodically to evenly distribute the salt, and after one month they’re ready to use. As the brine bath is rather acidic I use wooden utensils to remove the lemons from the jar once I need them.


Preserved Lemons

Coarse sea salt
Fresh squeezed lemon juice, if necessary

Optional spices
Bay leaves
Cinnamon sticks, lightly crushed
Coriander seeds
Rose peppercorns
Black peppercorns

Fennel seeds

  1. Start by slicing the ends off the lemons – just a tiny bit to remove the nubs, you shouldn’t see the flesh.
  2. Stand the lemon on one end and quarter the lemons from the top to within 1-2 cm of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, then reassemble the fruit.
  3. Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of the jar. Place the lemon cut side down, and press it to flatten and release it’s juices. Press it down as much as you can. Sprinkle another teaspoon or so of salt over the top along with a pinch of your desired spices.
  4. Repeat with the rest of lemons until no more lemons may be fitted into the jar after you have pressed them down.
  5. If the lemons aren’t already covered in their own juices, top of the jar with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  6. Seal the jar and let the lemons ripen on the counter for one month, shaking the jar periodically to evenly distribute the salt.
  7. The lemons are ready to be enjoyed after one month. Due to the preserving salt there’s no need to refrigerate once the jar has been unsealed.
  8. To use, discard the flesh and rinse the peel lightly under cold running water to wash off any excess salt.

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