There’s no need to pay a premium for preserved lemons at the store when they’re this easy to make yourself.
LC Thick-Skinned? Note
If your lemons are thick-skinned, notes Paula Wolfert, you can soften them by first soaking them in lukewarm water for 3 days, changing the water daily. If only that trick worked with the thick-skinned people in our lives.
- Quick Glance
- 10 M
- 10 M
- Makes 5 preserved lemons
Quarter the lemons, starting at the top and slicing to within 1/2-inch of the bottom. Sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, and then reshape the fruit. Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of a sterilized 1-pint mason jar.
Pack the lemons in the jar and push them down, adding more salt and lemon juice, if needed. Press down the lemons to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons. (If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover the lemons, add enough fresh lemon juice—not chemically produced lemon juice or water—to cover.) Leave some space at the top of the jar before sealing.
Set the jars aside in a warm place and let the lemons ripen for 30 days, shaking the jar often to distribute the salt and juice. They are now ready to use. To preserve your preserved lemons, stash them at room temperature away from direct light and heat for up to a year. There is no need to refrigerate the jar of preserved lemons after opening the jar.
Use a wooden spoon to fish out a lemon as needed. Rinse the lemon under cool running water. Remove and discard the pulp, if desired. The pickling juice can also be used as a flavoring agent for soups, terrines, vinaigrettes, pan sauces, and more. Just one caveat: Don’t stick your fingers in the jar.
Pressure Cooker Preserved Lemons Variation
Need preserved lemons in a hurry (like, say, for this North African Chicken Soup)? Forget about waiting a month with this pressure cooker variation, which yields what we like to call “pressured lemons.” Quarter 4 lemons, starting at the top and slicing to within 1/2 inch of the bottom. Toss them in your pressure cooker along with 1/2 teaspoon salt, a pinch of saffron threads, a pinch of granulated sugar, and 2 cups water. Cover the pressure cooker with its lid and seal according to manufacturer’s directions. Bring to high pressure over high heat, then adjust the heat to medium or whatever level is needed to maintain high pressure. Cook for 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the pressure cooker to depressurize but do not take off the lid. (The cooling process will decrease the pressure naturally, which ought to take about 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can place the pot under cold running water to release the pressure.) Once the pot has fully depressurized, remove the lid and partake of your pressured, or preserved, lemons.
Recipe Testers' Tips
Got 5 lemons and salt? If so, you practically have preserved lemons. The lemons do all the work. All you have to do is take a few minutes to add salt and lemon juice. Preserved lemons are special things. They add such wondrous, exotic flavor to whatever they're in. This recipe is the simplest one I've tried. You have to let them "ripen" in the jar for a month, but they're so worth the valuable real estate that is the coveted top shelf of the fridge. Just don't forget about them. Usually when I make preserved lemons, I add bay leaves and peppercorns, and while I prefer that flavor, this recipe is just about the lemons—and that's just fine with me!
I made the pressure cooker variation of this preserved lemons recipe, and it came together really quickly. I also reduced the pickling liquid in the pressure cooker by boiling it on high until I had a nice, thick, honey-like consistency. Yum!