Friday, April 26, 2013

Preserved Lemons

Tara requested that I post this recipe for Preserved Lemons.  Even though there weren't any lemons in our box this week, there are plenty of lemon trees in the neighborhood and all over town, too.  Perhaps you or your neighbor has a tree laden with ripe fruit.  It's easy enough to squeeze and freeze the juice for later use, but this recipe requires only slightly more work and yields a beautiful and versatile product.

Preserved lemons, also called salt-cured lemons are frequently found in Moroccan cooking.  There are many wonderful recipes for chicken and lamb made with preserved lemons, olives, garlic, and spices.  But preserved lemons have many more uses.  Chef Ernie Miller, formerly of the Farmer's Kitchen, opened my eyes to the myriad uses of preserved lemons.  They're a tasty "secret" ingredient in tomato salsa, hummus, seviche, potato salad, tuna salad, and all manner of sauces and salad dressings.  More on that later.

The most important ingredient is time.  They get better and better the longer they age.  I like to put several jars in the back of my fridge and leave them for six months.  They keep for a very long time.  I've had some jars well over a year.

Below are two recipes for preserved lemons:  One is simply lemons, salt, and juice; the other, from Chef Miller, includes a few choice spices.

Simple Preserved Lemons

1 wide-mouth quart jar with non-reactive lid
6-10 lemons, enough to fill the jar snugly
1/2 C kosher salt
fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1.  Sterilize the quart jar by boiling it for 10 minutes.  Allow jar to cool enough to handle.

2.  Score lemons lengthwise in quarters, cutting through almost to the bottom, but leaving the bottom in tact so that the lemon can open up like a flower.

3.  Place 1 T salt in the bottom of the jar.

4.  Starting with the first lemon, pull open the quarters and place 1 T salt inside the lemon.  Place the lemon in the jar.  Repeat with the remaining lemons, pushing down on them gently until the jar is snugly packed with lemons.

5.  Pour in fresh-squeezed lemon juice leaving 1/2-inch headspace but making sure all the lemons are covered.  Add any remaining salt.

6.  Cover tightly and let sit on the counter for 1-2 weeks.  Then place the jar in the fridge and allow to age for 1 month or longer.

Chef Miller's Preserved Lemons:  Follow the recipe above, adding 1 t black peppercorns, 3 cinnamon sticks, and 2 bay leaves for flavoring.

Star anise and cloves are other flavors to consider.  Feel free to experiment.

One of my favorite recipes for preserved lemons is this very simple salad dressing:  1 t minced preserved lemons, 1 t juice from preserved lemons, 1 T white balsamic vinegar, and 2 T extra virgin olive oil.  Mix together until well-combined and toss with mixed greens.  Do not substitute dark balsamic vinegar for the white balsamic in this recipe.  If you don't have white balsamic vinegar, you can substitute cider vinegar.

This week's bounty included:

From County Line Harvest:  Spring onions, lettuce, carrots, fennel, beets, and collard greens;

From Rancho Santa Cecilia:  Golden Nugget mandarins and avocados;

From South Central Farmers Cooperative:  Rainbow chard and blue kale;

From Sun Coast Farms:  Asparagus and broccoli;

From Silver Lake Farms:  Mint, chives, and cilantro

And from farmer Dave in Silver Lake:  French sorrel.




  1. Preserved Lemons Wow my mouth is watered. Nice food. Trees Planet