This simple condiment is North African, although salt pickled citrus are popular all over of south Asia as well. I love to add a spoon of chopped preserved lemon to soups, braises, pasta salads or rub on chicken or duck before roasting. The texture of preserved lemons is soft and the flavor is uniquely delicious. I recommend Meyer lemons if available, since the skins are softer and the flavor is sweeter than other varieties. Be very generous with the salt since it pulls juice from the lemons and protects them from bacteria and mold. It does take a whole month for the lemon peel to become soft and ready to eat, but it should be good for at least a year.
8-10 organic or pesticide-free lemons, washed
At least 1 cup of sea salt
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, as needed
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
10 peppercorns (optional)
4 1-cup canning jars, sterilized (this can be done in the dishwasher)
- Trim stems off of the lemons.
- Cut the lemon in quarters.
- Remove the seeds with the tip of a pairing knife, holding the lemon quarters over a small bowl to catch any juice. You can also leave the seeds in and pick them out just before using the lemons.
- Place 1 tablespoon of salt in the jar. Place two lemon wedges in the jar and top with another tablespoon of salt.
- Place half a cinnamon stick in the jar and continue to place lemon wedges and spoonfuls of salt into the jar until the jar is full.
- Press the lemon wedges down into the jar with your fingers. This will release juice from the lemon and fill any air spaces.
- Add more lemon wedges and spoons of salt, pressing the lemons down until the jar is full. If you still see air pockets in the jar, squeeze some extra lemon juice into the jar. The jar should be very full, and the lemons completely submerged in juice.
- Add one more tablespoon of salt to the top of the filled jar before sealing the jar with a lid.
- Place the jars in a dark place at room temperature (65-75 F) for one month. Don’t worry if a white film develops on the surface of the lemon rinds, or if the white of the rind becomes slightly darker over time. Discard the lemons immediately if any other colors develop.
- Try this recipe with other pesticide-free citrus, like limes or kumquats.
- Try other whole herbs or spices: a sprig of fresh rosemary, cloves, coriander seeds, or bay leaves.