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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)


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. If desired, purée the whole batch—lemons, salt, juice and all.
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes