Lemons preserved in salt
Preserved lemons are common in Moroccan cuisine,
especially tagines, but they have many uses in a variety of dishes There are
several different ways of preserving lemons or limes.
Some methods involve pickling in spiced vinegar but I think that by far the
best method is simply to preserve them in salt and their own juice.
They will be ready to use in about 3 months and
once the jar is opened they will keep for at least 6 months in the fridge,
provided that the jar has a tight lid and the lemons are covered with
juice/salt and they are not exposed to the air.
I recall seeing a recipe from Keith Floyd using
vinegar where they can be ready in about 6 weeks - salted for 10 days, then
pickled in vinegar for at least 4 weeks. I think the recipe is in "Floyd in Spain”*. I cannot find a copy but
I recall he used the recipe on one of his television programmes.
I first preserved lemons
whilst staying in Spain when local lemons were on sale in the market at 1€ for
2 kilos. This is the first batch I made in Spain -
As there are restrictions
on carrying liquids on the plane I couldn’t bring them home and left them for a
future visit or for others to use. But,
despite having only hand luggage with a weight limit of 10 kilos I did buy
another 2 kilos to bring home and a 2 kilo bag of sea salt.
preserved lemons - Hamad m’rakhad
salt (coarse – gruesa)
leaves, 1 cinammon stick for each jar
chilli for each jar (optional)
coriander seeds, ½ tsp black pepper corns,
½ tsp fennel seeds (optional)
The proportions of lemons and sea salt are variable – just use
as many lemons as you want and as much salt as you need. You will need glass jars with tight fitting
screw top lids or Kilner jars. It is important to use natural sea salt and not
table salt which has additives. You
don’t have to buy expensive branded sea salt.
Shop around. It’s the same kind
of salt you would use for encrusting a fish for baking – but make sure it is
salt for cooking.
Wash and dry the lemons.
Cut off or trim any hard piece at the stem end or nib at the top.
Make a cross cut in the top and cut down to within 1-2 cms
of the base.
Mix half the sea salt with the coriander, black pepper and
fennel (if using). Put a dessert/table spoon of salt in the bottom of a
sterilised glass jar, enough to cover the bottom. Open up the cuts in a lemon
and put in a teaspoon of salt, close it and place it in the jar. Sprinkle over
some more salt and then repeat with another lemon pushing down hard to release
juices. Repeat this pressing down the
lemons at each stage and adding more salt until the jar is full of lemons.
Whilst packing the lemons add a cinnamon stick and 2 bay leaves to the jar and
dried chill if using.
The level of salt and juice mixture will probably come about
half to three quarters up the jar. At this stage some recipes suggest adding
water which has previously been boiled and more salt until all the lemons are
covered but if you have enough lemons I think it is better to add more lemon
juice and salt. IF you squeeze lemons
for the juice, don’t throw the squeezed lemons away. Cut the peel into shreds
and add to the jar. Screw the lid on
For the next 2-3 days push the lemons down each day, and shake or invert the jar and add
more freshly squeezed lemon juice or salt if needed to ensure they are fully
covered. Leave in a cool dark place for 1 month, when the lemons will
be ready for use. It is helpful to turn
the jar from time to time and ensure there is a layer of salt at the bottom of
the jar – if not add more. Unopened the lemons will keep for 18 months – 1
year. Once opened, they should keep for
up to 6 months in a refrigerator. Once
opened you can add a little olive oil which will float on top to ensure air
doesn’t get to the lemons and this will prolong the life.
The preserved lemons add an exquisite flavour to chicken,
lamb and fish. They can also be added to pasta dishes or mashed potatoes,
salads or to liven up a serving of buttered carrots in fact to anything which
could benefit from a lemony tang. But a word of warning – go easy on salt
seasoning if using preserved lemons as they will give up some saltiness to the
dish. You can always add more salt but
you can’t take it away!
To use, take a lemon from the jar. If you don’t need all of
it just cut it in half or quarters and put back in the jar what you don’t need,
ensuring it is covered in salt/juice.
Take the lemon that you want to use and scrape off all the flesh and
discard – it is only the peel that you need.
Having removed the flesh, wash the peel to remove any excess salt and
then slice thinly or chop according to your recipe.
Santa Pola January 2015
& Hove October 2015
*Floyd on Spain - Penguin books 1993 - ISBN 0-14-014449-8