Make your Own Preserved Lemons
Preserved Lemons add delicious authentic Moroccan flavour to your tagines and Moroccan dishes.
Makes: as much as you want
Preparation time: 30 mins
Curing time: one month
unwaxed lemons, with unblemished skins
lots of freshly squeezed lemon juice (from any lemons)
one cinnamon stick (optional)
3 cloves (optional)
6 coriander seeds (optional)
4 black peppercorns (optional)
one bay leaf (optional)
Scrub clean the lemons.
Scrub clean a glass jar which is large enough to hold the lemons tightly packed and which has a tight-fitting lid. Sprinkle a tablespoon of salt in the bottom.
Cut the stem end tips off the lemons. You need only cut off a very small amount.
Hold a lemon with the cut end up and make a vertical incision through the centre but do not cut the lemon in half – stop about ½” before the bottom. Make a second cut perpendicular to the first, as if cutting the lemon into 4 wedges, but again stop short of the end by ½”. Repeat with remaining lemons.
Working over a small bowl, prise open a lemon and liberally sprinkle salt inside, coating all of the cut surfaces. Place it in the jar. Repeat with the remaining lemons, using the salt caught in the bowl as well. Stuff them all tightly in the jar, squishing out their juices, and sprinkle another tablespoon or so of salt on top. If using, put the spices in the jar as you go.
Fill jar with extra lemon juice so that all lemons are completely covered with the salty lemon juice. This is important. Do not be tempted to top it up with water. If needed place some kind of weight inside the jar to ensure lemons are submerged.
Cover and leave in a warm room for one month while the lemons ferment. If using a preserving jar with rubber seal, as pictured here, you can clamp it shut as they’re designed to let out gas. If using a regular jar, leave it loosely closed, or cover with muslin instead, so that gas can escape as the lemons ferment. Every day or two give the jar a shake.
Now transfer jar to a cool place, such as a larder, and tighten lid. The longer you keep them, the better they’ll get. Eventually the liquid will turn deliciously syrupy.
To use, spoon out a lemon and rinse off excess salty liquid. Pull apart the segments, cut away any pips, and the flesh too if it tastes too salty (but it should be delicious), then cut into dice, slithers or however desired.
The lemons should keep for at least a year. When making your next batch you can reuse the juice from the previous jar.