When life gives you unwaxed, biological lemons, you make… preserved lemons!
Preserved lemons – both rind and pulp – are mostly used as a condiment in North-African, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines. The salty pickled fruits add a unique pungent lemon-y flavor to lamb, chicken, or vegetable stews and they are a great addition to cooked fish and salad dressings as well… and, as I’ve read online, great in Bloody Mary’s too, apparently!
As with any type of pickle the pickling process affects the texture and flavor of the pickled produce in question (usually for the better, in my opinion) and it’s no different with these lemons. With this simple way of preserving lemons (meaning: adding lots of salt and waiting) you remove some of the bitterness and strong acidity that is associated with fresh lemon(rind) and get a delicious saltiness and almost floral lemon-y aroma in return.
Don’t be fooled by that description, though: while the bitterness and acidity may be weakened, these fragrant preserved lemons are strong-flavored and intensely lemon-y, so if you like mild and bland foods, these are really not for you.
Texture wise, after some months, the rind and pulp will usually continue to soften, giving the usually slightly-firm pickled lemons an almost sticky and jammy texture, which makes them great to be used in salad dressings, salsa, hummus, and oil-based pasta sauces.
All you need to make this delicious lemon pickle are some unsprayed, unwaxed lemons, a sterilized glass jar, and enough salted lemon juice to completely cover the lemons (you can re-use this salted lemon juice a couple of times). Combine the lemons, salt and lemon juice in your jar and leave it somewhere cool and dark for about a month and you’ve got yourself a delicious fruity condiment.
While the lemons are fermenting, you may see (and hear) bubbles/fizz in the jar. Either don’t use a completely airtight jar, or make sure you release the built-up pressure in the jar every day for the first couple of days of active fermentation.
Considering moulds, films and other floaties: After some time, you might find a white film developing on the lemons, which is completely normal. Simply rinse off the lemons before using and the preserved lemons are totally fine.
At times, you may also find some small white mould-like ‘floaties’ on top of the brine, which can simply be scooped off after which the lemons are still safe to use without getting ill – if you find a considerable amount of fuzz, or black mould on the lemons, though, throw them out.
Preserved Lemon (Lemon Pickle)
- 6 medium unwaxed lemons
- 4 - 5 extra lemons, for juicing
- Kosher- or coarse sea salt, little less than 1 tablespoon per lemon + 2 more tablespoons
- Sterilised glass jar(s)
- Optional: spices and herbs such as cinnamon, bay leaf, peppercorns.
- Sterilise your glass jar in boiling water for a few minutes minutes.
- Scrub the outside of the lemons well to clean them.
- Cut off the ‘nubby’ pointy bit off the lemons, then cut 6 of the lemons in half lengthwise, leaving the ends attached. Cut lengthwise again, as if you were quartering the lemon, but again leave the ends attached (see photo in post above).
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt in the bottom of the sterilized jar.
- Sprinkle about a tablespoon of salt inside the cuts of each lemon. Tightly pack the salted, cut lemons into the jar and press them down to make some of the juice come out.
- Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of salt over the top of the lemons.
- Juice some of the 4 - 5 remaining lemons and pour in enough juice to cover the salted lemons in the jar.
- Leave the jar outside of the refrigerator in a cool, dark place for 1 month before using.