I was all set to write up a post for a salad dressing using preserved lemons, when I realized that I never got around to posting about the preserved lemons themselves.
I actually made (and photographed) these preserved lemons almost a year ago, using some of the last of that season’s Meyer lemons from my little potted tree. I had to leave the tree behind when we moved from Texas to North Carolina. The movers wouldn’t take it and, even if they had, I’m not sure the tree would have survived a week with no water on a hot, dark, moving truck.
I did, however, manage to bring some of the lemons with me, in the form of marmalade, lemon curd and preserved lemons. The jars of marmalade were simply slipped into boxes with the rest of our pantry items, but the lemon curd and preserved lemons got the VIP treatment. I packed them into little soft-sided coolers along with a few ice packs and crammed them into my checked baggage.
Yes, I flew to my new hometown with a suitcase that was almost entirely filled with frozen lemon curd, preserved lemons and approximately one billion tiny bottles of frozen breast milk.
Crazy? Maybe, but in my defense, that lemon tree was one of the only potted plants I have ever managed to keep alive for more than a week and I wasn’t quite prepared to let it go.
Anyway, you can buy preserved lemons, but I can’t for the life of me think of why you would. Unless you needed them right away for, say, the salad dressing I’m planning to post about next week.
Making these yourself requires a little patience — they need to sit for about three weeks before they’re ready to eat — but it takes mere minutes of hands-on time. Honestly, I know I’m always talking about how easy it is to make this dish or that one, but preserved lemons really are one of the easiest things I’ve ever made and pretty much impossible to get wrong.
Basically you just wash some lemons, cut them into segments and drown them in salt. Three weeks later you’ll end up with velvety soft wedges of what are essentially pickled lemons.
Somehow simultaneously more mellow and more intense than their fresh counterparts, preserved lemons can be incorporated into any manner of things, from risotto to cocktails.
They also keep incredibly well, making them an excellent and unexpected homemade gift option. Hurry, if you make a few jars now they’ll be ready just in time for Christmas.
- 3 or 4 good-sized lemons (I used Meyer lemons, but any type will do)
- Lots of sea salt
- A clean and dry pint jar with lid
Wash the lemons and cut them, lengthwise, into quarters.
Pour a little salt, about 1-2 tablespoons, into the bottom of the jar.
Add a layer of lemon pieces. Then plenty of salt — don't hold back. Then repeat with another layer of lemons and more salt. Finish with a layer of salt.
The jar should be packed with lemons and salt. You may need to push the lemon wedges down into the jar a little as you go. Go ahead, cram them in, but leave a tiny bit of headspace before sealing the jar.
When the jar is full, screw on the lid and set the jar aside on the counter or in the pantry. Shake the jar gently every day or so but, otherwise, leave it alone for at least three weeks.
All of the lemon pieces should be submerged in brine. If they are not, you may need to add a little fresh-squeezed lemon juice to the jar.
After three weeks, you can start using your preserved lemons. Just rinse them first to get rid of excess salt.
Preserved lemons keep practically forever in the refrigerator.