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Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons

I saw some organic Meyer lemons and then some organic regular lemons and I impulsively bought both bags, leaving me with 12 lemons in addition to the bowl of lemons we use every day in our tea. Oops! I was not really in the mood for lemon bars and a couple looked like they might turn in a day or two so I really didn’t have time to stew on it. I decided to make preserved lemons, which is a deliciously tangy - and hard to replicate - element commonly found in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. It requires a little patience for the fermentation time but once you’re there, you can store the jar in the fridge for as long as you like and use one delicious tablespoon at a time until it’s time to make it again.

There are a few different ways of making preserved lemons but they all require just the signature lemons and salt, which acts as a means for fermenting the fruit. In my jar, I used half Meyer lemons and half regular lemons. The Meyer lemons, which are a hybrid between citron and mandarin orange, will add a sweeter, less sour element to the finished fermentation. You could do straight up lemons, exclusively Meyers lemons or other citrus fruit using the same method described below.

What can you do with preserved lemons when they’re done fermenting? It’s great in Moroccan tagines, stews (add at the end), pilafs, salad dressing, sauces, cocktails or just anywhere you want a little extra piquant flair. If your lemons are not organic, I recommend soaking them in white vinegar for an hour, then brushing and rinsing.
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Preserved Lemons

1Quart Ball jar with ring and lid, sterilized
12 lemons and/or Meyer lemons
Approximately one cup coarse kosher salt

With your sterilized jar nearby, cut all 12 lemons from the stem to the bottom, not quite cutting through, in quarters, so they are intact but with four segments. Pour a few tablespoons of salt in the bottom of the jar.

Over a bowl, rub the lemons in salt, over the peel and inside. Place them in the jar, pushing down as you go to squish them and allow the juice to rise. We used a sterilized empty salt grinder to press down, and found as more lemons were added, it was helpful to continue over a bowl, because eventually the juice will overflow. Keep going until all the lemons have been added and pressed: this takes a little elbow grease. If you see some seeds floating at the top, you might want to remove them with a fork but it’s up to you. Add the overflow lemon juice back into the jar, reserving about -inch of space from the lid.

Ferment on a counter for three to four weeks, turning the jar occasionally, until you are ready to use it. Store in the fridge after this.

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