Having recently started working as a Manager in an Italian delicatessen, I am really surprised by how often I get asked for this product! It’s Moroccan in origin, but it can be used in hundreds of different ways. Let your imagination run riot. Use these lemons in salads, in mayonnaise, with fish, in stews and tagines – or if you’re really brave, just as a nibble with a drink!
- 6-7 juicy, ripe lemons
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half *
- 6 coriander seeds *
- 4 black peppercorns *
- 1 bay leaf *
- Enough water to cover
* – OPTIONAL
Cut crosses in the lemons to within the 1/2 inch of the bottom so that they are still joined as one. Sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh. Squash the lemons into the jar, packing down tightly as you go.
At this point you could add the spices if you want. Spices in preserved lemons are customary in the southern region of Morocco, although in the north they have a tendency to simply use water and salt. Use the spices by sprinkling them evenly throughout the jar of lemons.
Cram any gaps with quarters of lemon, coated in salt. Put the remaining salt into sufficient water to cover the lemons, bring to the boil, and dissolve all the salt. Allow to cool.
Pour over the lemons, submerging them completely, but leaving a half-inch gap between the water and lip of the jar. If the jar has a metal lid, cover the jar with a double layer of clingfilm first. This prevents the metal lid from being corroded by the salt solution.
Leave the jar in a warm place for 30 days, turning the jar each day to distribute the juices throughout the jar. To use the lemons, first rinse them and then remove the pulp. The lemons will keep for at least a year in the fridge, so make sure you tie a date label to the jar!
Over time, you’ll notice the lemons turning a deep golden-amber colour, and the pectin in them might make the fluid jell. This is fine; the lemons aren’t affected. Some people like to use the pulp by blending it with mayonnaise or cream, and eating with chicken or fish. I love it all.