Wicked Easy, Traditional Homemade Preserved Lemons

Right now fresh, beautiful citrus is in every market you go to. It’s always best to preserve your foods when they are in season not only because its healthiest, but it’s also most affordable. Special sales run on whatever is in peak season, and  although winter seems a bit dead and and gray at times, the seasons best offerings are some of the sunniest, crisp and bright fruits around! Lemons are best known as being a great source of vitamin C but they also contain potassium and calcium.

We primarily use lemons for immune boosting lemon water, mixing lemon into your water isn’t just for flavoring, the vitamin C helps your immunity and the acidity aids with digestion. Adding lemons to your meals can help break things down and of course, fresh, zesty lemon adds a lot of brightness to any dish. When I buy a bag of organic lemons the first thing I do is soak them in warm water with vinegar. I pat them dry, cut them into 1/8th segments and I freeze them! Although there is benefit to freezing lemons and putting them into your drinking water, today we are preserving them with salt for long term storage.

Preserved lemons are very unique in flavor, but they are absolutely intriguing. They are salty and sour, but also mellow and refreshing. I first fell in love with some of the flavors of preserved lemons in Israel, most often I tasted preserved lemons with grain salads, parsley dressings and fresh cured olives with chili. Once preserved I have kept these lemons on my shelf until they are gelatinous and entirely unrecognizable. I totally like them this way as they have a unique and earthy taste to them. Most folks use them up within six months though. You can start with a smaller pint sized jar with about 3 lemons if your unsure of this process, but I promise you, you’ll be making several quarts next winter when lemons are fresh again! 

Traditional Homemade Preserved Lemons

If you’ve ever combed through your favorite cookbook and discarded a recipe because it called for preserved lemons, I hope you earmarked it! While these beauts aren’t easy to come by commercially, they are super, wicked easy to prepare. All you need is lemons, salt and a bit of time. (and even the time is somewhat negotiable!) For the best flavor these need at least a week to start to cure but within two weeks they are ready to eat. After a month they are at their best. You can take preserved lemons and create a paste by puree’ing the lemons and adding diced chili’s, garlic and olive oil. With some red bell pepper and spices added you have yourself a nice harissa-like paste which is used in many Moroccan recipes.

You can halve your lemons, slice them into quarters like I do. These can be incredibly salty but the liquid is insanely flavorful and it can be added to dressings or tossed onto roasted potatoes with herbs. A little goes a long way!

To prepare ONE QUART

  • 7 Lemons, Divided (See Note)
  • Celtic Sea Salt, Fine or Coarse (about half a cup)
  1. Soak six lemons in a bowl with warm water and vinegar.
  2. Dry off your lemons thoroughly.
  3. Quarter or halve your lemons.
  4. Add one or two tablespoons of salt to the bottom of your clean quart sized jar.
  5. Add several lemon wedges and layer a few spoon fulls of salt again.
  6. Layer a “lemon lasagna” with some salt and lemons until you reach the top.
  7. Sprinkle one more spoon of salt on top.
  8. Cap your jar and allow it to rest at room temp overnight.
  9. Take your remaining lemon, quarter it. Add it to your jar and press the lemons down until they are covered with salt water/juice.
  10. Allow to cure at room temperature for at least one week. Periodically burp the jar to insure that it won’t burst.

-Once your lemons are preserved, you can store them at room temperature as long as necessary, roughly six months is average, one to two years is common for my tastes, but if you find that after 4-6 weeks you REALLY love THAT TASTE, you will want to refrigerate them to preserve that particular flavor.

NOTE: Check your lemons one day after they have been salted. Press the lemons down and see if they need an extra lemon to add more liquid. If your lemons are covered fully by the liquid you do not need to add the last lemon. If you are out of lemons, you can add preservative free lemon juice to top off the jar.

Optional Flavorings You can Add – Cinnamon stick, bay leaf, hot chili;s, rosemary, cloves, coriander, cumin, peppercorns