How to Preserve Lemons

06 September 2018
This time of year is citrus season. If you are lucky enough to have your own tree or know someone with an established tree, you can guarantee a glut of lemons at some point over the citrus season. Once established lemon trees are quite prolific.

I was the recipient of a lemon tree for Christmas which is currently growing in a pot and has not reached glut-harvest levels as yet. However, once people know you like to take excess produce off their hands it does have a way of finding you. Enter a fruit bowl full of lemons needing some attention....

A mix of lemons.


There are many ways to preserve your lemons, depending on how you use them. I often freeze both zest and juice for cooking and making drinks in warmer weather. I also like to freeze wedges or slices of lemon to add to summer drinks as both ice and flavour. But my favourite was to preserve lemons is by making preserved lemons....that is lemons packed in salt.

It's a very simple process and produces a very versatile pantry staple. Just the right thing for adding a bit of salty tangy-ness to a dish. I use my preserved lemons in so many ways, including:

  • Tagines (the obvious choice): this is my fave recipe it's from the 'Jamie Does' cookbook
  • Fish dishes
  • Potato salad
  • Stirred through just about any salad actually - roast veg and cous cous is a winner with preserved lemon and anything with beetroot, but it works with so many dishes really.
  • Salad dressings
  • Mayonnaise dipping sauces

To make salt-preserved lemons you need a clean jar, some lemons, rock salt and flavours of choice. I kept things simple with this batch and used just bay leaves but I have used peppercorns, cinnamon and coriander seeds in the past.

1. Wash and cut your lemons into wedges.



2. Sprinkle a little salt and your flavourings into the bottom of your clean jar - if you are concerned about bugs you can sterilise your jar.

3. Layer your lemon wedges and salt, squishing the wedges in as you go and releasing a bit of juice.



4. Once you've reached the top of the jar you need to make sure your fruit is fully submerged as it will be fermenting. Top up with a little lemon juice or water until the fruit is covered.



5. Pop on your lid and put in a cool dark place for a month, then enjoy as you like. They will keep for a long time in the pantry or fridge. I tend to transfer mine to the fridge once I've started using them.

And that's all there is to it.

Do you use preserved lemons in your cooking?
Ever given DIY preserved lemons a go at home?

14 comments

  1. Hi Laura,
    thank you for sharing how you make preserved lemons and how you use them. I have wanted to try making them as we sometimes have a glut of lemons but didn't think we would use them preserved in salt. Does a thick skinned lemon work better than a thin skinned one? We have both a Meyer and a Eureka lemon tree.
    Do you use the flesh once preserved or just the skin?
    Store bought bagels are no longer good enough for my young adult kids since I started making my own after reading your post. I've made them weekly and yesterday tried a combination of 2/3 white bread flour and 1/3 wholemeal spelt flour which resulted in a delicious slightly nutty flavour. My next attempt will be spiced fruit bagels.
    Hope your spring gardening is progressing well.
    Cheers, Maria from Adelaide.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Maria, This is the first time I've done them with a meyer - usually I use a thicker skinned one. I don't think it will make too much difference. I generally just use the skin but I have chucked the flesh in a tagine before as it melts right down.
      I love the sound of the spiced fruit bagesl - i just fed my starter tonight so that might be on the agenda when I mix my dough in the morning.
      Same to you with the spring gardening - I'm sure you're fruit trees are looking full of blossoms about now.
      Cheers,
      Laura

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  2. I don't have a lemon tree, but do have a prolific lime tree. I will give it a go preserving with the limes...in Thai cooking I am guessing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let us know how you go Karen. I think Thai and Vietnamese would work well - they'd be especially nice in a Thai beef salad or Vietnamese rice paper rolls I think....or at least that's where I'd debut them. Mexican too probably....i wonder how they'd go in a Margarita? Hmmm...

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  3. I love preserved lemon but I've never made any myself. Will have to rectify that! Thanks for the instructions! Meg:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy to oblige Meg. The best way to use them is of course in that lemon meringue pie of yours...but when you have a glut it's probably for the best to preserve some :)

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  4. I've never preserved lemon. My mom used to, and she dried cut up lemons in the sun first. Your method is much easier. 😊

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder what the taste or texture difference might be dried? But definitely quicker to just throw them in a jar with salt!

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  5. The first time I came across this preservation method, was via Maggie Beer, on the ABC's, "The Cook and the Chef". It intrigued me how simple it was as a preserving method. However, I have no idea how to use them afterwards. Lemons are normally sour - marinated in a salty brine, does it improve the flavour to eat them raw. Or is it a cook only, method of consumption, once preserved?

    I made sauerkraut recently, which is preserved cabbage, in the same salt and fermenting process. It tastes delicious!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Christ,
      You can have them raw sliced thinly in a salad or something but the flavour is pretty intense - salty & tangy at the same time, less sour though. They would be too salty to eat solo like you would eat sauerkraut or an olive. Obviously the flavour is not the same but the intensity of flavour is similar to capers or anchovies.
      Any dish that would benefit from a flavour boost works well. Another way i use them which I forgot to mention above is sliced finely on a pizza - roast lamb, haloumi, broccoli & preserved lemon is a winning combo around here.
      Hope you give them a go. Nice work on the sauerkraut - I can't get enough of that stuff!
      Cheers,
      Laura

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  6. I keep meaning to try this and I've got a recipe for making it with squeezed out lemon halves as a way of using them up which I must try too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good idea to do them with the juice squeezed out - then you can get the benefit of the juice and the preserved outer. Is there any extra ingredients in the 'juice out' instructions that you have or just top up with water?

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  7. Hallo Laura...my lemon tree was also a gift and grew well in a pot for 7 years...it really has grown well since being 'set free' in the garden, thank you for your post on preserving lemons, I've shared it on the Down to Earth FB page xx

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    Replies
    1. Hope it's helpful Sue for you and the DTE FB community. Yes, it's always nice to set plants free in the garden! Sadly we are renting currently so they remain 'trapped'.
      Cheers,
      Laura

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