Preserving Your Own Lemons Adds a Touch of the Middle East to any Dish

Can you hear it? It’s the siren call of Moroccan cuisine. You’ve seen all sorts of recipes that sound delicious, but they call for preserved lemons. Preserved lemons? They’re not in your neighborhood grocery store, and you certainly couldn’t make them yourself. It’s got to be too hard, too labor-intensive, too expensive, right?

Not at all. Preserving lemons is cheap and easy. So don’t drop your hard-earned cash in a pricey gourmet shop. With a few, simple ingredients from your pantry and a canning jar, you’ll be on your way.

You’ll need eight large lemons, some extra lemons for their juice, course sea salt, a wee bit of olive oil, a bowl and a canning jar. Let’s get started, shall we?

You can use any kind of lemon, but people often prefer to use Meyer lemons because of their mild flavor. If you can’t find them, though, any lemon will work really well. Make sure the lemons are very clean as you won’t be peeling off the rind. Then dry them well.

Cut each lemon into eight wedges and toss them in a large bowl. Add one cup of course sea salt. (We know, it sounds like a lot. But remember, preserved lemons are really flavorful. A little goes a long way.) Mix the salt and the lemons together.

Then take your canning jar. If you’re not sure what a canning jar looks like, it has what’s called a spring top. They can be found in any basic kitchen supply store. Wash the the jar, the lid and the ring in hot water with soap. Then boil them for five minutes and let them dry on a towel. For this recipe, you want a jar with a two- to two-and-half-quart capacity.

Now start stuffing the lemons down in the jar. Shove them down so that you’re squeezing juice out of them. Enjoy the feel of the juice between your fingers and the scent of the lemon’s essential oils. The lemon juice will rise to the top of the jar. Now squeeze some more juice on top so the juice completely covers all the lemons. Add a couple more tablespoons of salt. (If you’re scared of all that salt, just close your eyes. It’ll be all right.)

Now tuck the jar away in a dark, cool corner, closet or room. You’ll leave it there for a week. It sounds like a long time to wait, but you’ll want to visit your preserved lemons a couple times in that week. Lift the jar, shake it all around, get the juices and the salt flowing. Hug the jar to your chest and imagine the delicious dishes you’ll be able to make. Remind yourself that it’s all worth the wait.

At the end of the week, stick the jar in the refrigerator for about three weeks. Again, you’re going to shake your lemon jar a couple times a week. Give it a hug too, if need be. When the lemons are ready, you’ll know. The rinds will be nice and soft.

Now for the pièce de résistance. Open up the jar, take a bit of olive oil and pour it on top. You don’t need a lot, just enough to leave a light coating.

You can store the lemons in the refrigerator for six months. They won’t last that long, but it’s nice to know the option is available.

We have you pegged. Don’t deny it. You want to hog your preserved lemons to yourself, don’t you? They’re just too good to share. Well, don’t. Get your friends on over and share with them the exoticism of the Middle East. Preserved lemons are versatile, so mix them with vegetables, add them to lamb stew, stuff fish with them. You can even top salads with them. Let your imagination run wild.