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Preserved lemons first struck my fancy at the beginning of December on the blog Not Without Salt.  It was one of those weird phenomenons where you’ve never heard of something and then, inexplicably, you see it everywhere.  All of a sudden I was seeing preserved lemons like people had been eating them for centuries, which they probably have given their Indian and North African roots.

Why in the world would you preserve lemons, you ask?  I wondered this too.  The truth is unless you’re going to use them in Indian or Moroccan food, I have no idea what else to do with them.  Ashley from Not Without Salt had them in chicken tagine when she was in Morocco, and she used them in her Thanksgiving stuffing and a fennel salad at home.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with mine yet, but I’ve always been curious about Moroccan cooking and the unique flavors and spices found in it.  A Moroccan dish might be coming your way soon!

Moroccan-Style Preserved Lemons

For one Mason jar

  • 2 medium or 3-4 small lemons
  • 1/4 cup kosher/sea salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 5 coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • extra freshly squeezed lemon juice, if needed

Sterilize your jar by immersing it and the lid in a big pot of boiling water.  Leave them in for 10-15 minutes. (The amount of time the jars need to boil depends on your altitude.)  Remove carefully with tongs and allow to dry on a rack or dish towel.

Quarter the lemons from the top to within an inch of the bottom.  Sprinkle some salt on the insides.

Place one tablespoon of salt in the bottom of the jar.  Pack in the lemons, putting more salt and spices in between each one.  Make sure to press the lemons down so they release their juice.  If the released juice doesn’t cover everything when you’re finished, add more freshly squeezed juice on top.  I needed to add about one more lemon’s worth of juice.  Leave some air space before sealing the jar.

Let the lemons ripen in a warm place for at least 30 days before using.  Shake the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice.  When you’re ready to use them, rinse what you want to use under running water to remove excess salt, and you can remove the pulp if you don’t want to use it.  There is no need to refrigerate after opening.  The lemons will keep for up to a year.

There are so many recipes for preserving lemons.  You can do it simply with lemons and salt, nothing else added.  And there are a number of other things you can add if you so desire.  Different peppercorns, cumin seeds (I would have used these too if I had them), fennel seeds, cloves and dried chiles are just a few I’ve found that can be included.  You can totally customize preserved lemons to your own taste.