Preserved Lemons

Olives and Preseved Lemons, Morocco

A handful of ingredients stand as cornerstones of Moroccan cuisine. One of those things is preserved lemons. The preserved lemons in the image above were preserved whole, which is very dramatic looking and may be more authentic, but it takes a month. The recipe below is for “quick” preserved lemons — it only takes a week. These add a distinctive flavor to many Moroccan dishes, some of which I’ll share with you once you’ve made your preserved lemons.

“Speedy” Preserved Lemons

2 ripe lemons
1/3 cup coarse (kosher) salt
1/2 cup lemon juice
olive oil

Try to find lemons that don’t have terribly thick skins. They should be ripe and fragrant. Scrub the lemons and dry them well, then cut each one into eight wedges. Toss the wedges with the salt and place them in a 1/2-pint glass jar with a plastic-coated lid.

Alternatively, if your lemons are not small enough to fit in a 1/2-pint jar (and most lemons sold at your average Midwest grocery store are not that small), toss a few more wedges in additional salt, and keep adding until the jar is pretty firmly packed. But don’t go with too big a jar. (I usually find that 2-1/2 large lemons work in a 1-pint jar.)

Pour in the lemon juice (increase this proportionately, if you had to use a few more wedges of lemon). The lemons and juice should come as close to the top of the jar as possible—you don’t want a lot of air in there. Close the jar tightly, and let the lemons “ripen” in a warm place for 7 or 8 days, shaking the jar every day to distribute the salt and juice. At the end of this time, use the lemons, or add olive oil to cover and refrigerate. (The olive oil will harden in the refrigerator and create a seal that helps keeps air away from the lemons.) These can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

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Filed under culinary history, Culture, Food, Geography, Recipes, Travel

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