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Preserved Lemons and How to Make Them

jar of preserved lemon
preserved lemon

I have always wanted to make preserved lemons. They seem like such a unique culinary ingredient and such a rich source of umami flavor for foods. I have seen them in the grocery store, but they are always so expensive I have not bought them.

Well December was my lucky month. My cousin lives in Florida and in the last week of December 2022 FL had an early freeze warning. My cousin needed to pick her lemons before the freeze killed the fruit, so she sent me a lovely box of lemons. What a delight! These are heavy, juicy thin-skinned lemons unlike the thick skinned, dry Eureka lemons I’ve seen at the grocery store. Now I had my chance to make preserved lemons.

Florida lemons
Florida lemons

Preserved lemon is an ingredient in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Dishes like Tagine are most common, but I bet it would be nice in sauces like gremolata or chimichurri or in tzatziki sauce. I think that they will be good in places I’d use capers as well like tuna salad or tartar sauce. Preserved lemons are also a good source of gut healthy probiotics as they are fermented, and we all could use more fermented foods in our diets.

Jar, salt, pounder, fermentation lid
Jar, salt, pounder, fermentation lid

Here is how I made them.

I cut my lemons into quarters. Most recipes call for leaving the lemon slices attached at the bottom, but I didn’t do that. I’m contrary.

Then I dipped the cut side of each lemon in kosher salt. I tried to salt the skin side, but the salt would not adhere. Then I put the wedge in my jar. I continued this for 2 lemons.

Lemon wedge and salt
Lemon wedge and salt

Then I mashed the salted lemon down into the jar so I could fit more lemon in the jar. After mashing, I added about a tablespoon of salt to the jar. Then I cut 2 more lemons, salted them, then added them to the jar, mashing as I went. Once the jar was full, I mashed once more, added another tablespoon of salt, and mashed again.

mashing the lemons
mashing the lemons

The lemons released quite a bit of juice so there was enough salted juice to keep the peels submerged. I used a fermentation weight to make sure the peels stayed under the juice.

lemons in salt and juice
lemons in salt and juice

I capped my jar with a fermentation air lock lid to keep mold spores out and to let any gas buildup out. Now I will let this jar sit out on my counter for a week then I’ll transfer it to my refrigerator for a month. After a month the lemons should be ready to use.

Preserved lemons
Preserved lemons

To use this, you remove the pulpy part from the skin and discard the pulp. The peel is minced and added to your food for an umami bomb.

Have you used preserved lemons in your cooking? How did you use them? Are they easy to find in your area? Tell me how you like them. I will check back in in a month when mine are ready and share my experience!


4-5 lemons

4-5 Tablespoons kosher salt

1 quart wide mouth jar

fermentation lid

fermentation weight

mashing device ( I used the pusher for my Vitamix blender)

Cut lemon into wedges.

Roll in salt

place 1T salt in jar add salted wedges of 2 lemons

Mash to release juice

Repeat with more lemon wedges and salt until jar is full.

Add 1T salt on top of lemons.

Mash well to release juice to cover wedges.

If not enough juice is released, add more lemon juice as needed.

Add weight to keep peels submerged

Let sit at room temp for 5 days then transfer to fridge for 1 month

To use, remove pulp from a wedge, dice and add to dishes as needed.

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