Do you love the taste of lemons but don’t always have access to fresh ones? Preserved lemons are the solution. They are a delicious and healthy way to add a deep lemony flavor to your Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes!
Plus, this versatile condiment is so easy to make. You only need 2 simple ingredients, lemon, and salt. How magical!
Many Moroccan dishes use preserved lemon for their tangy flavor. The famous chicken tagine and fish tagine are great examples.
The good news is that the preserved lemons are super easy to make and most importantly inexpensive. If you have fresh lemons, and salt, you have all you need!
So, here is a step-by-step guide on how to make your preserved lemons the Moroccan way.
How to make Moroccan preserved lemons at home
To prepare the Moroccan preserved lemons you will need lemons, coarse sea salt, and a sterilized glass jar.
Choosing the right jar
When choosing a jar, make sure it’s big enough to fit all your lemons snugly. It also needs to be airtight to prevent air from getting in and spoiling the lemons. I personally prefer using glass jars but plastic ones are totally fine as long as they can fit all your lemons.
Choosing the lemons
For this recipe, you’ll need fresh lemons. It’s best to use organic yellow lemons if you can find them. Choose a thin-skinned type of lemon as they preserve quicker than the thick-skinned lemons.
The size of the lemon is not really important. You can use large or small lemons, depending on what you have. I usually like to use small lemons because they fit better in the jar. Also, it’s convenient for me to use one at a time.
When it comes to quantity, there is no set amount. It really depends on the size of your jar and how many lemons you want to preserve.
I usually pack and squeeze lemons into my jar until there is no room left. Plus, that squeezing helps speed up the preserving process. So make sure to give them a good squeeze!
Choosing the salt
You’ll also need coarse kosher salt or sea salt. Do not use table salt as it is too fine and will make your lemons too salty.
If you are using kosher salt, make sure to check the label to see if it has any additives. Some brands add iodine to their salt, which can make your lemons bitter.
You can usually find both kosher salt and coarse sea salt in the supermarket.
Preparing the lemons
Give your lemons a good wash under running water. You want to make sure they are clean before you slice them.
Speaking of slicing the lemons, you have two options. The first is to cut the lemon into 4 wedges without going all the way through. Just to make enough room between the wedges to stuff the salt.
The second option is to leave the preserved lemons whole. This is usually the way spice shops do it in Morocco. To do the same, use a knife to poke deep holes all over the lemon.
I personally prefer the wedges method because I think they are easier to stuff and they preserve better and quicker.
Add lots of salt
If you cut the lemons into wedges all you have to do is stuff them with salt, lots of salt, and close them. Be careful not to break the wedges apart. Once done put and squeeze the lemons in the jar.
Add more salt to the surface and close tightly.
If you are leaving them whole, start by sprinkling a layer of salt on the bottom of your jar. Put the lemons into the jar one by one while adding a generous amount of salt between the lemons. Squeeze the lemons as you add them this will help release their juices.
Once all the lemons are in, add more salt to the top and close tightly.
After a few days, the lemons should release their juices and be completely submerged. If for some reason, this doesn’t happen, add the juice of one or two fresh lemons to the jar.
The waiting time
Now all you have to do is wait. Let the jar sit in a cool dark place for at least a month or two.
You can start using them after a month but they will be even better if you wait longer. I usually wait for at least four months before using them.
During this time, make sure to check on your lemons every now and then. If you see any mold forming on the surface, just scoop it off.
It’s also normal for the lemons to darken in color as they preserve. The longer they stay in the jar, the darker and softer they will get. You can preserve your lemons for up to a year but you can age your own lemons as long as you like.
Storing the preserved lemons
Once they are ready, store them in the fridge to prevent them from getting softer. Plus, the cold temperature will help them last longer. You can keep them in the jar they were preserved in or transfer them to a smaller one. The preserved lemons will last for several months in the fridge.
Using the preserved lemons
To use, simply remove a lemon from the jar and rinse it under running water to get rid of the salt.
You can then use them whole, cut them into wedges, or chop them up. The flesh of the lemon can be used but the peel is really where all the flavor is.
The best way to use them is to add them to dishes during cooking or right before serving.
They are really good in chicken tagines, Kefta Kebab, and all fish dishes.
- 1 clean jar, large enough to accommodate 9 lemons
- 10 fresh lemons
- 2 additional lemons (for the juice if needed)
- 350 g coarse salt
- Step1: Wash and dry both the lemons and the jar.
- Step 2: Cut through the lemons_ but not all the way through_ to make four attached wedges.
- Step 3: Fill in the crevices of each lemon with salt. Use a generous amount of salt
- Step 4: Squeeze the salted lemons into the jar. The lemons need to be as tight as possible so choose the jar accordingly
- Step 5: Add a layer of salt on top of the lemons before closing the jar. Set aside for a few days.
- Step 6: After a few days in the jar, the lemons should be submerged in the juice they released. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice to help the process.
- Step 7: Close the jar and place it in a dark place for at least two months. The longer the better.
- Step 8: When the lemons are ready. Store the lemons in the fridge.
- Rinse your preserved lemons before using
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