Preserved lemons

by Alissa

My mother slices, salts and packs her Moroccan preserved lemons.

My mother slices, salts and packs her Moroccan preserved lemons.

My mother arrived from Dhaka 10 days ago. She’s keeping me company with the small people while Ace tours Canada mathing for the next month. Between rounds of holding and sniffing the baby (oh milky, silky, cheeky, baby), we’re taking turns embarking on projects I would never attempt at this stage of mothering, or maybe at all. Working on a new essay.  Ironing. Mending. And some fun ones that we’ve been saving up to enjoy with her: teaching O to read, sewing a mermaid costume, and fermenting this season’s lemon crop.

This past weekend at the farmers’ market we gathered Meyer, Eureka, lemonade (sweet lemon with a distinct lemonade aftertaste) and common lemons (“Common lemons are hard to find,” according to one of the lemon farmers) to make assorted strains of Moroccan preserved lemons.

We recently used up the very end of the last batch from last year, and I can’t wait for these ones to be ready. We use them most in stewed chicken (prunes, tomatoes, lemons, balsamic) and in thin strips in sushi, but they are pretty great in everything.

Next time you come into a good lot of lemons, try this at home.

Preserved lemons, packed and waiting to ferment.

Preserved lemons, packed and waiting to ferment.

Moroccan Preserved Lemons according to Kristen:


12 Meyer lemons (or whatever you can get)

1 cup of kosher or pickling salt (no iodine, as it discolors, or regular salt, which has flow agents)


Wash the lemons.

Parboil the lemons for five minutes by dropping them in batches into boiling water. This helps break the skin down and lets the juice flow. I also think it helps to clean the lemons.

Cut the lemons in half, preserving the juice as you go by cutting them in a shallow bowl.

Coat each piece of lemon in salt and pack them tightly into a clean jar. Cover with lemon juice. There might be enough juice from the lemons, or you may need to squeeze a few extra for juice. I have recipes that say not to use water to top it off, but I have without disaster–just be sure to use distilled water, as the chlorine in tap water inhibits the desired fermentation.

Put the jar in a cupboard or a dark kitchen corner, tipping them every day or so to mix the salt and juice, opening them sometimes to push any floating lemons down under the juice. They need to sit for ten days to two weeks, possibly longer if your kitchen is cold.

The lemons will keep for a year in the fridge, becoming softer over time. The juice can be reused to pickle more lemons for up to a year, or added to salad dressings or soup broth.

Harmless white bacteria may grow on the top of your lemons sometimes–simply rinse it off. Push the lemons under the juice every time you open the jar to prevent this growth. Remember to move the lemons to a smaller jar as required. All fermented products are happier in a jar that fits them, not with a lot of open air. As these are not actually canned, they will not develop botulism and are completely safe to eat even if left unrefrigerated.

Rinse, chop and use in:

potato salad, tuna salad, chicken or fish dishes, turkey stuffing, etc.