The tangy, sour flavor of preserved lemons is powerful, so a little goes a long way. Be sure to wash the preserved lemons before eating the rind. Discard the salty lemon pulp and slice the rinds for a variety of uses. They add brightness, salt and depth to tagines, stews, grain salads, dressings, relishes, roasted poultry, seafood, marinades and sauces. Add them to hummus or use as a garnish for labneh (fermented yogurt cheese). They’re also a delicious way to brighten up a stuffing or roasted vegetables. A jar of preserved lemons makes a wonderful gift for foodie friends.
Moroccan Preserved Lemons
- 8-10 tablespoons fine sea salt (Celtic or Himalayan noniodized salt), divided
- 10 whole, organic, unwaxed lemons
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 mild red chile pepper, such as Fresno, sliced into thin circles
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Add 1 tablespoon salt to the bottom of a ½-gallon mason jar or other sterilized glass fermentation vessel. Cut a deep cross in five whole lemons from one end to within ¾ inch of the other end, leaving the lemons intact. In other words, cut them in quarters without slicing all the way through.
- Over a bowl, sprinkle salt inside each lemon, rubbing salt into lemon pulp. Then reshape lemons and place them inside jar. Using a wooden spoon or tamper, smash the five lemons until they release their juices and soften. This will form the brine. Add cinnamon stick, bay leaf, peppercorns and chile pepper slices. Slice remaining five whole lemons the same way, sprinkling salt inside each one, and add to the jar. Add the 2 tablespoons lemon juice and any remaining salt; then smash lemons some more with wooden spoon. (TIP: If lemons are not fully submerged under the lemon juice brine, add enough saltwater to cover and use glass weights to keep them submerged.)
- Cover jar tightly with a regular or airlock lid. If using a metal lid without a rubber lining, place a layer of parchment between the lid and the jar so that the acid in the jar doesn’t eat away at the lid and cause it to rust. Allow mixture to ferment in a cool, dark place for 4–6 weeks, until the lemon rinds are soft enough to bite. When fermented to desired taste, place a new lid on the jar, mark it with the date, and store in refrigerator up to 6 months.
- Makes 8 cups; Prep 25 minutes; Fermentation 2–4 weeks