Preserved Lemons Two Ways: Weekend Project?
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I typically don’t/never do this: 1. Post a recipe I’ve made only once. 2. Suggest you make something I’ve never tasted.
Why am I making the exception today? Well, this is the thing: preserving, as many of you know, takes time, and while I would prefer to wait a month to tell you how these preserved lemons turn out, I would prefer more if in a month from now you actually had these preserved lemons on hand, so when in the event I post about something else, something perhaps like the chicken tagine with preserved lemons and green olives I had at Tara Kitchen in early December, a dish I cannot stop thinking about and so hope to recreate at home, you’ll be able to participate, too.
Make sense? I mean, what if on February 10th, I posted about said tagine and exclaimed: Friends, you HAVE to make this. It is the BEST thing you will ever eat. All you need is a chicken, some stock, a bunch of herbs and preserved lemons. You would be like, are you serious? Oh sure, let me just run to my pantry and pull out my jar of preserved lemons. I mean, doesn’t everyone spend all of citrus season slicing and salting and stuffing Mason jars full of lemons? Couldn’t you have given us a head’s up? How hard would that have been? Am I right? Just making sure I can sleep at night.
And so today I offer you two recipes for preserved lemons, one from Jerusalem, which will be ready in four weeks, and one from the September 2013 Bon Appétit, which will be ready in two weeks. Both sound promising. Fingers crossed?
PS: Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives and Preserved Lemons
PPS: Canal House Chicken Thighs with Preserved Lemons
The first method, from Jerusalem, calls for a two phase process. During the first phase, scored lemons stuffed with salt sit for a week in a Mason jar. During the second phase, rosemary, chile, lemon juice and olive oil are added to the jar and everything mingles together for three more weeks.
After 1 week, add a dried chili or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes and a sprig of rosemary.
Update: 3/10/2014: Upon returning from a Tara Kitchen cooking class and learning that the owner, Aneesa, purées her preserved lemons — lemons, salt and juice — and uses spoonfuls of the purée in her dishes, I whizzed my whole batch of Jerusalem preserved lemons in the food processor and now have a jar of purée I am certain will last a decade.
Here’s a little more I learned from Aneesa about making/using preserved lemons: Aneesa does not use Meyer lemons at the restaurant because of cost, but she believes their thin skin makes them ideal for preserving. She uses the more traditional preserving method (the Jerusalem method vs the BA method). She never rinses the lemons before using because once her lemons are preserved, she purées the whole batch and uses spoonfuls of her puréed preserved lemons in various dishes.
The second method, from Bon Appetit, calls for boiling the lemons first, then submerging them in a brine. From the bit of recipe comparison I did on preserving lemons, this method, which calls for a fair amount of sugar, seems to be a bit unconventional. That said, BA described the lemons as “the best [they’ve] ever tasted.” The recipe comes from Philip Krajeck, chef of Rolf & Daughters in Nashville.Print
Traditional Preserved Lemons
- Total Time: 20 minutes
Source: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Having made these several times now, I’ve made a few teensy changes: I don’t add the rosemary and chilies anymore—I only use lemons, salt and lemon juice. After the 4 weeks, too, I purée the lemons, salt, juice and all. This was a tip I learned from Aneesa, the owner of Tara Kitchen in Schenectady. I find having the purée on hand to be much more user friendly.
- 6 lemons (or however many you want to make)
- 6 tablespoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt
- 2 rosemary sprigs, optional (see notes)
- 1 large red chile, optional (see notes)
- juice of 6 lemons
- olive oil (see notes)
- Before starting, find a jar large enough to accommodate all of the lemons snugly — I used a 2-quart jar for my 8 lemons. To sterilize it, fill it with boiling water, leave for a minute, and then empty it. Allow it to dry out naturally without wiping it so it remains sterilized.
- Wash the lemons and cut a deep cross all the way from the top to within ¾ inch from the base. Stuff each lemon with about 1 tablespoon of the salt (if lemons are small, use 2 teaspoons) and place in the jar. Push the lemons in tightly so they are squeezed together snugly. Seal the jar and leave in a cool spot for at least a week.
- After the initial period, remove the lid and press the lemons as hard as you can to squeeze out as much of the juice as possible. Add the rosemary and chile, if using, and the lemon juice, and cover with a thin layer of olive oil—I don’d do this olive oil step. Seal the jar, transfer to the fridge, and leave for at least 4 weeks. The longer you leave them, the better the flavor.
- If desired, purée the whole batch—lemons, salt, juice and all.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
Preserved Lemons in Brine
Source: Philip Krajeck via Bon Appétit Note: I started with four lemons and then ended up boiling four more because there was plenty of room in my 2-quart ball jar and plenty of brine as well.
- 4 to 8 lemons, I used Meyer but you can use any kind
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 7 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 clove
- Boil 4 scrubbed lemons until softened, 10-12 minutes.
- Transfer lemons to a bowl of ice water. (Oops, I didn’t do this.) Reserve cooking liquid.
- Using a paring knife, deeply score lengthwise 4 times, leaving lemons intact.
- Whisk ⅔ cup sugar, 7 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds, ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric, 1 clove, and 3 cups hot cooking liquid in a bowl. Transfer lemons to a one- or two-quart heatproof jar and add brine. Cover and chill at least 2 weeks. Update: Store these in the fridge. I store the Jerusalem variety at room temp, but I think these (with all that sugar) should be refrigerated unless you keep your house very cold.
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172 Comments on “Preserved Lemons Two Ways: Weekend Project?”
Hi Alexandra, I made these using the first recipe last year with lemons from a neighbors tree. This year I received some lemons but it looks like they have a beeswax coating on them. I am thinking to soak them in a white vinegar and water solution prior to starting the recipe. Do you have any ideas? Thank you, the peasant bread recipe is rising in the oven right now.Your recipes never fail me!😎
So happy to hear this, Lisa! Gosh, I don’t know regarding the coating, but your idea sounds good …did you do it yet? Let me know how it goes. Otherwise, I wonder if you could sprinkle with with kosher salt and use it as an abrasive medium to scrub them down a bit?? I don’t know. But keep me posted!
Thank you for the kind words. Yay re peasant bread!
I love preserved lemons & have made them for years, much simpler
juice some lemons, fill jar part way with juice, & a lot of kosher salt & stir for an hour or so (clean lemons)
cut lemons into quarters, put more salt on a plate, cover lemon quarters in salt & shove into jar, pack jar & make sure lemons are covered with juice, I have an inch or more of salt in the bottom
cut chopsticks to fit tight in top of jar & hold lemons down.
put the jar in a plastic freezer bag (just in case of leaks) put in very back of the fridge (coldest part), shake & turn upside down every couple of days (make sure lid is tight)
no sterilizing & those who are concerned about room storage are calmed
I actually use a plastic container (Zip Lock) with twist top from grocery as the lid is easy to tighten (which is a good thing when it’s upside down)
Love this! Thanks for sharing.
Brilliant. I’ve made my own for a while starting with a basics lemon salt recipe but over the years I’ve changed it it as I’ve learned. My humus sings because of a combo of garlic, harissa and preserved lemons (sometimes Meyers lemons) pounded in with my mortar and petal. So many uses, and so much flavor.
A jar of puréed preserved lemon, never crossed my mind. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!
Frank! Hummus with harissa, garlic and preserved lemons sounds heavenly … totally doing this ASAP. Thanks!!
I’m curious about canning the purée to make it last longer. I feel like it would be more than acidic enough (4.6ph or lower) and the salt would help. Anybody have any ideas?
Hi Jennifer! I am not a canner, but I suspect it would work beautifully.
They can be hermetically sealed. Water bath canner, 10 minutes for pints, 30 minutes for quarts.
Thank you for sharing this Page!
Hi, I am interested in making this recipe for the first time. Do you know how long I can keep the preserved lemons if i use the Jerusalem method and make everything into a pulp?
Hi Evi! I can’t give an exact amount of time, but for me, I’ve kept the purée in the fridge for months and it has still been good. I think because there is so much salt, it preserves it.
Hi there,I’m just wondering if anyone can tell me how to can the lemon purée properly so it can be stored on the shelf,thanksx
Hi Kate! I would follow the instructions on a reliable canning site, such as Food in Jars.
How long can the preserved lemons be stored in the fridge (after puréeing)?
A very long time … probably health officials would prefer you to freeze it after a week, but I’ve honestly kept it for months without refrigerating it. There is so much salt in the purée, that I think it preserves it.
No worries. I’m game to try again. I just discovered you recently, and I’ve really enjoyed everything else I tried.
Ok, phew, so nice to hear this… thank you 🙂
Wow! You never cease to wow me.. just amaze me… with every thing I’ve ever tried that you’ve shared. Now, here’s one more. Lemons are almost a dollar each in the store now, but I have a relative who has a lemon tree that has tons of lemons every year, to which I am welcome. Problem is (rather, has been) she lives two hours away and a big sack of lemons only lasts so long. Now, I can pick all those lemons with great joy. Thank you, Ali!
Oh yay! Wonderful to hear this, Donna! Thank you for the kind words. Means a lot 💕💕💕💕
My jar exploded (split in half) on Day Four. What did I do wrong?? Maybe too much airspace? I had trouble packing them in.
Oh my goodness, I am so sorry to hear this! Was it glass? Ugh … it almost sounds as though it fermented and the gas caused the jar to break? Honestly, my only suggestion would be to maybe not seal the jar so tightly. Terribly sorry to hear this again.
No worries. I’m game to try again. I suspect fermentation too. Could I have gone too light on the salt? I thought my lemons were small so I just used two teaspoons for each.
I suppose that is a possibility, but I would have never imagined your jar splitting. It’s so bizarre and also a little scary… definitely be sure to keep the lid loosely tightened next time around.
I’m excited to try these lemons! I used the BA recipe. When I go to puree them do I puree the lemons and the brine or just the lemons? Thanks so much, we love all the recipes you make!
Hi Katherine! Great to hear! I would just purée the lemons, but save the brine because you may need to use some of it while you are puréeing the lemons to get them to the right consistency. I imagine you will not need much of the brine if any at all, but don’t discard it until you’ve puréed your lemons.
Thanks for the kind words 🙂
So, I have made 2 containers of the traditional recipe using Meyer lemons, but forgot about them in the rush back to work after the holidays! They have been sitting in the cabinet now for 2 weeks with only the salt in them. Your recipe says “at least a week”- do you think they are go to go onto the next step? I would hate to throw them away, but also don’t want for any of us to get food poisoning🤣
I think you’re good to go! The salt should protect them.
Very delicious yet very confusing. This sounds wonderful, each, but then you add in saying ” I don’t do this.. why use this recipe then? Very confusing
Hi Ali. After one week of letting the lemons sit with salt, do you remove them from the jar and squeeze them with your hands? Or do you use a spoon or something similar to squeeze the juice out of them while still in the jar? Not sure if there is contamination risk from taking them out of the jar?
Hi Natalie! I just use a wooden spoon or a sturdy spatula to squeeze out as much juice — I do not remove the lemons. I think bc there is so much salt, there probably is little risk of contamination if you were to remove them, but I don’t think it’s necessary to remove them. Just leave them in the jar, and press with whatever utensil you have that works.
Here’s another one I forgot to thank you for! I’d gotten my hands on some bergamote lemons and made a half batch (jar and refrigerator constraintes), and love the purée that this made. We went through it in no time. Second batch hanging out in the fridge now, two weeks left before we can taste. Feels like forever.
Thank you so much for this simple and tasty method — I used only salt and lemon juice and loved it.
Great to hear this, Carole!! So glad you like the purée. I find it to be so handy. And I think salt and lemon is the way to go (and I really need to update the post to make it less confusing, but your success is giving me confidence that it’s OK :)).
I did not sterilise jars will my preserved lemons be ok to use
They should be fine! I never sterilize my jars.
Hi Alexandra! I wondered if you’ve liked blending the lemon peels/flesh/juice together? Someone mentioned elsewhere that using the flesh might result in a strange texture? Also, I went rogue and used sugar and salt with lemon juice (no water) and wondered if this can sit out or do I need to refrigerate while preserving? TYSM!
Hi Cynthia! If your kitchen is cool, you probably can leave them at room temperature, but if you are worried at all, you may as well stick them in the firdge. It won’t harm them. I often use Meyer lemons, and their skins are thin, and I’ve had no problem with the peels, flesh, and juice all blending together. That said, if you are using thick-skinned lemons, you might not want to go this route. Hope that helps!
Do you purée the lemon rind too or just the lemon part?
All of it! Lemon rind included 🙂
I made the Jerusalem style. Added a lot of smoked black peppercorns. WOW DELICIOUS! And I dehydrated the salty lemony soaked peppercorns then crushed them into THE BEST Lemon black pepper spice you can imagine!! Lemon picata chicken never knew what it could become!! Thank you & God bless uou
WOW!!! Michelle, that all sounds amazing. Bravo to you. Thanks for writing and sharing all of this.