I recently decided it was time for me to make preserved lemons; they are such a staple in many Moroccan recipes, and in many Middle Eastern kitchens that I decided I definitely needed to have some in my Middle-Eastern-Middle-England kitchen, but whenever I’d tried shop bought ones, I haven’t liked them…
So, I thought I’d make my own and see if they turned out better…and I’m happy to say that they did! The flavour and consistency is quite different from the ones I’d bought here (I haven’t bought them elsewhere to be able to compare), so from now on, I’ll be making my own 🙂
I decided to make three different versions and see how the flavour differed, hence the three jars; I started the process a month ago and tried them for the first time this weekend. Opening the jars was like Christmas, wondering what I would find…but before I get to that, let me tell you how I made them…
I’ve read several recipes and in particular kept in mind Kellie’s post and this post, but the basics are this…
You need lemons, salt, lemon juice and a jar, and that’s pretty much it!
Making preserved lemons
Have a clean, preferably sterilised, lidded bar available; the lid needs to fit well
Cut some silicone paper to a slightly bigger size than the lid
The lemons need to be small and unwaxed – I couldn’t find unwaxed lemons so I bought the smallest lemons I could find and cleaned off the wax with boiling water: put the lemons in a colander and pour over boiling water to melt the wax off. As they then dry, you’ll be able to see if there’s still any wax left as it dries white and then you can scrub it off with a scourer and hot water
Cut into the lemons lengthwise as if you were cutting them into quarters, BUT without cutting all the way through the end so that they stay intact
Sprinkle some good quality salt in the bottom of the jar; stuff each lemon with a tablespoon of salt then press them into the jar, pushing out juice as you do
Fill the jar, stuffing the lemons in well, then top it up with more lemon juice until the lemons are all covered
Line the lid with the silicone paper and fit the lid
The jar now needs to be left in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks to do their job, the longer the better; keep them somewhere where you’ll see them and turn them every so often to shake up the salty liquid, and ensure that the liquid still covers the lemons, whenever they catch your eye…
You can add aromatics to the jar too, Kellie likes to add pink peppercorns and bay leaves, so I tried that version in another jar; I also made up a jar with added cinnamon sticks, star anise, cardamom pods and cloves – a real Christmas spice feel.
When I finally opened the jars this weekend, the smell was amazing! The liquid had become so syrupy, I almost wished I could eat it, but luckily you can save it for future batches, and the lemon skins were soft and pliable.
And the added aromatics do make a difference! I could definitely tell the difference between the lemons preserved with the ‘Christmas’ spices mix and the ones without; I’m struggling to find the words to explain that difference though!! You’ll have to try for yourself 😉
Being preserved already, the jars can remain in your cupboard for up to a year, they don’t need to be stored in the fridge, which will also make a difference to them when you use them; if you put them in the fridge, the skins will harden with the cold which will spoil the experience as far as I’m concerned.
So now, how to use them…the aim is to use the lovely soft skin; the flesh will be very salty and doesn’t tend to be used, but if you like the taste, go ahead. You can add the skin to salads, dips, tagines…the opportunities are as endless as your imagination.
How to use preserved lemons
Remove a lemon from the jar and wash it well to remove the salt then loosely dry it off
Peel out the flesh then chop the skin finely and use at will
During the last week I’ve added preserved lemons to freshly made homous, and several salads…they add such a lovely flavour and texture…
Salad of quinoa, chopped mixed herbs, spices, chilli flakes, olive oil, Verjus, pomegranate molasses and preserved lemons
Fava beans cooked with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, mixed with tahini and chopped parsley, and added preserved lemons
Cooked beetroot with chopped herbs, my chermoula spice mix, labneh, olive oil, roasted hazelnuts & preserved lemons.
I am taking several jars of preserved lemons to this week’s Fiesta Friday, and I hope that everyone there likes them, and that I’ve inspired you to make your own – homemade is always best 😉