It’s citrus season and when my friend Denise said she had moved to an Oakland, California neighborhood practically littered with Meyer lemons, I got a wee bit jealous and begged her to share a recipe for preserving the sweetest gems of the season. This recipe works with any sort of lemon, and I’m sure all of you New England readers are grateful for that. Thanks, Denise! — Maggie
I adore preserved lemons. Salty. Tart. Sunny. I normally do not buy them, unless I am in a pinch, as they are expensive, and I can easily make them at home.
I recently discovered seven neglected Meyer Lemon trees in our new neighborhood. It was a dream come true, as we use to have a neighbor in the city, who use to surprise us with bags of them. He had a backyard full of mature Meyer Lemon trees and never really used them. We would squeal with joy, when we spied those green-brown trash bags on the door step. This recent discovery has made us love our new neighborhood a little bit more.
Making preserved lemons at home is simple. It really takes a little time and some patience. It will take almost 4 weeks before you can use your lemons; but it will be worth every bite. Your jar of lemons will last about six months.
I like to use Meyer Lemons as they are fragrant and really juicy. If you cannot find them in your area, please use regular lemons. I also like to use organic. You will be keeping the skin on them, so you really don’t want to add any extra “ingredients” to your jar. Be sure to scrub them clean with water and pat dry.
Every recipe for preserved lemons is different. I have made them by cutting the lemons all the way through, and by leaving them whole. I find the lemons hold up better when they are only cut partially through. As well, they look prettier when you take out the jar to show your friends. I also use kosher salt, as it is a bit finer and dissolves better.
You will also want to sterilize your jar before putting the lemons into it. I put my jars on a cookie sheet in at 300 degree oven and let them “bake” for 30 minutes. Be sure to let them cool down before putting your ingredients into them.
Once you get the hang of making preserved lemons, try getting creative with the recipe. Add spicy red chilies or spring time lavender or thyme to the mix. A big jar tried with a pretty ribbon would make a lovely gift for your hard to shop for foodie friend, as well.
- 8-12 organic Meyer or regular lemons, scrubbed very clean and dried
- 1 cup kosher salt, more as needed
- Fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Sterilized quart canning jar – my jar fits 7 medium lemons
- Put 1/4 cup of salt in the bottom of the jar.
- Trim stems off the lemons and cut 1/8” from the tip of each lemon. Cut an X through one end of the lemon; but, DO NOT go all the way through. Keep the lemon together. Gently open like a flower.
- Sprinkle the entire lemon with a generous amount of salt. Pack into the jar, pressing down so that the juice begins to squeeze out. Sprinkle a couple more tablespoons of salt over the lemons. Continue the process. Keep adding lemons until the jar is full. The lemons should be covered with juice. You may have to juice the remaining lemons to top off the jarred ones. Sprinkle the remaining couple tablespoons of salt over the top before sealing the jar.
- Let the jar sit at room temperature for three days. Flip the jar upside down every other day. Move the jar to the refrigerator for 3 more weeks. Continue to flip the jar upside down every other day. The lemons will be ready when the rinds are soft.
- Just before you use the lemons, rinse off the salty lemon brine. You can use the entire lemon or scrape away the pulp and seeds. The preserved lemons will store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
All photos styled and shot by Denise Woodward.
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