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.
Pickles are the easiest of the lacto-fermented vegetable recipes, so long as you choose firm vegetables like radishes, carrots and cauliflower. Cucumbers are tender and fermentation tends to make them mushy and unappealing. You can combat this by soak your cucumbers in cold water for a couple of hours before starting the pickling process and add a fresh grape leaf or two to the jar, but vinegar pickled cucumbers are still far superior. Stick with the firmer vegetables for reliable success.
Enjoy pickle vegetables with meat, beans, sandwiches or salads. I prefer pickles when they are fairly young, 1-3 months old. They keep better than some varieties of kraut, but they taste less “alive” when they’ve been sitting around for months.
You can experiment with alternative whole spices, such as caraway, cardamom pods, allspice and cinnamon sticks for different flavors.
Makes approximately 3 pints or 6 cups of pickles
1 pound of firm vegetables such cauliflower, icicle or Easter egg radishes, daikon chunks, carrots, baby beets or green beans
1 cabbage leaf for every two containers
12 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of one or more of the following: whole mustard seed, dill seed, peppercorns, coriander seeds
3 cups of freshly boiled filtered or spring water
3 teaspoons of sea salt
1 probiotic capsule or 2 tablespoons of brine from a previous batch of pickles
3 sterilized pint-sized canning jars
1 quart or liter sized glass container
1 quart sized bowl for peels and pits
1 large cutting board
1 large sharp knife
Large metal or plastic mixing spoon
I recommend doing two things the day before pickling: 1. Mix salt with freshly boiled water in a quart sized container. Cover with a lid and shake the jar vigorously a few times to encourage the salt to dissolve completely. The salt should be completely dissolved and the water cool when you are ready to start pickling. 2. Before cleaning all the vegetables, let them soak in water overnight in the refrigerator. They will allow them absorb water and result in a crunchier pickle.
On day two, wash the vegetables and trim away stems, leaves and roots. Do not peel the vegetables unless they are really dirty since the skins provide some the beneficial bacteria we want to grow. Slice cauliflower and other large vegetables into 1-2” bite-sized pieces.
Place four cloves of garlic, a teaspoon each of mustard, dill seed and peppercorns in the bottom of each jar. Fit as many soaked vegetables as you can into each jar. You can get artistic with the colors and arrangement. If you squeeze the vegetables in tightly, they will hold each other in place.
Add probiotic powder or brine in each jar.
Fill the remainder of the jar with salt water leaving a ½ inch from the top. The vegetables should be fully submerged in liquid.
Fold half a cabbage leaf and squeeze it in to the mouth of each jar, covering the vegetables.
Screw the lids on your jars and store them at a comfortable temperature out of direct sunlight (65-78 F) for one week.
To check on your pickles, open a jar over the sink in case it overflows. They should smell tart, salty and fizz a little. If they smell bland and don’t fizz, they aren’t ready yet.
Move your pickles to the refrigerator once you are happy with their level of fermentation. The cold will slow their development considerably. Eat them with green, pasta or bean salads, on sandwiches, or whenever you want a tangy snack.