Preserved Lemons are one of the key condiments in Moroccan cuisine: preserved in salt and lemon juice, the lemons lose their sharp edge and develop a milder, unique and lemony tang that is a characteristic flavour of Moroccan food.
Also known as Pickled Lemons, commercial brands can be found in many specialty food stores. I tracked them down at El Safadi Brothers at 11316 134 Ave, but they’re so simple to make that I’d encourage you to try out a batch at home: the brighter, fresher flavour of these home-made preserves beats the commercial varieties hands down.
If you’re making your own, try to use organic, unsprayed lemons: you’ll be using the lemons skins in your cooking, and don’t want to be eating chemical sprays! And use sea salt, or kosher salt, to avoid the more chemical taste of commercial table salt.
In Morocco, preserved lemons are best loved in the classic Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives, but you’ll find them deliciously combined with fish and lamb as well, and in salads they provide an unparalleled, piquant tang.
You can use your lemon preserves to add the swagger of North Africa to other dishes that you make at home. Combined with chopped, fresh herbs and stirred into couscous they make a perfect partner for most grilled meats and fish. Or add them to sautéed green beans, to roasted squash and to salads of all sorts.
For more inspiration, Paula Wolfert and Claudia Roden are two of the many wonderful food writers whose books will inspire you to take on Moroccan cuisine at home. Or why not book a Cook Moroccan class at Get Cooking today? We’re taking group and private bookings now, and will be offering scheduled classes to get you going soon!
Lemons Preserved in Salt and Lemon Juice
8-10 organic lemons
8-10 tbsp sea salt or kosher salt (1 tbsp per lemon)
a few coriander seeds, a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick and a dried chili (optional)
more freshly squeezed lemon juice, to cover
1.5 liter preserving jar
- Sterilize the preserving jar.
- Wash and scrub the lemons.
- Cut the lemons into quarters lengthwise, but do not cut them all the way through: leave the stem ends intact so that the lemons still hold together.
- Pack 1 tbsp salt into each lemon, rubbing it into all of the cut surfaces.
- Squeeze the lemons, stem side down, into the prepared preserving jar, packing them in as tightly as possible, and adding the optional spices if you’d like. Use more or less lemons depending on the size of your lemons and of your preserving jar.
- Put the lid on the jar and set aside for 2-3 days until the lemons have softened, pressing them down more every day to encourage their juices to flow.
- After 2 or 3 days the lemons will be bathed in their own juices. Pack them down again then cover completely with more freshly squeezed lemon juice and set aside in a cool place for one month, until they are softened. The lemons will keep for 6 months to a year.
- To use, scoop out and discard the flesh then rinse the lemon skins in cold water.
Have you tried Preserved Lemons before? Or are you trying out the recipe above? Post your pictures to my facebook page, or leave me a comment below — I’d love to hear about your experiences with Preserved Lemons too!