Preserved Lemons

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Preserving with salt has been a common method for storing vegetables past their season for centuries, and preserved lemons have long been a staple of Arab Mediterranean cuisines. There are different methods for making preserved lemons. Some recipes call for spices such as cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn and bay leaves. The Indian version of these pickled lemons uses an abundance of seasonings, including fenugreek seeds and turmeric. My recipe relies primarily on salt and sugar, so the fruit's bright flavor shines through. (A couple of sprigs of oregano gives them a Mediterranean bent). The preserving process is easy to do at home. Once the lemons are ready, I use them in classic Moroccan tagines, salad dressings and sandwiches, as well as marinades and stews. And since the rind is tender and completely edible, the whole lemon can be used.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 28 days 15 min (includes preserving time)
  • Active: 15 min
  • Yield: 10 preserved lemons
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Ingredients

Directions

Special equipment:
a sterilized quart glass jar with a tight lid
  1. Wash 10 of the lemons thoroughly and dry them completely (reserve the remaining 3 to 4 lemons for juicing). Cut off about 1/4 inch from the tip of the 10 lemons, then cut them almost all the way into quarters, keeping the ends attached.
  2. Mix the sugar and 3/4 cup salt in a small bowl. Gently open each quartered lemon, use a small spoon to fill it with the salt mixture and close it back up. Place the lemons and remaining salt mixture in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to overnight. After this time, the lemons will have released some of their juices and become squishy.  
  3. Transfer the salted lemons and oregano if using to a sterilized quart glass jar with tight lid, pressing them tightly into the jar; you want as little space between the lemons as possible. Squeeze enough juice from the reserved lemons (about 3/4 cup) to fill the jar with lemon juice. You may need more or less juice, depending on the size of the lemons.  
  4. Refrigerate the lemons, turning the jar upside down every few days and then placing it back in the refrigerator right-side up, until the rinds are soft, 3 to 4 weeks. You can keep the preserved lemons in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.  

Cook’s Note

Since the rinds of the lemons will be eaten, make sure the fruit is scrubbed very clean before preserving. If available, use organic lemons for this recipe.