Recipes - Pickles & Dips

How to Preserve Lemons

Too often I’ve been tempted by a Middle Eastern recipe only to be disappointed after spotting preserved lemons on the list of ingredients. Not because I dislike preserved lemons but rather they’re not a pantry staple and, until recently, making them myself hadn’t crossed my mind.

But my ‘preserved lemons recipe disappointment’ is now a thing of the past – because as you can see, I’m the proud owner of a large jar of preserved lemons. So far they’ve been added to a basil pesto and also to a beetroot dip – both with success. Next on the list is a more traditional use like a Moroccan stew.

How to Preserve LemonsLemons are preserved not through the heavy dose of salt involved but rather by the process of fermentation. Once you seal the jar lots of microbes get involved and they work hard for weeks to create an intense and distinctive citrus flavour. Having tried my hand successfully at fermentation with homemade sauerkraut I was confident that neither my time nor a bag of lovely lemons would be wasted on my first attempt.

So after tracking down some unwaxed lemons (which for some reason is never easy) I turned to Elaine from Foodbod. I remembered Elaine posting a while ago on preserving lemons and with her method and tips my first jar of preserved lemons was created. Here I’m hoping to inspire you to grab some lemons and give this a go.

How to Preserve LemonsHow to preserve lemons

This post echos the words of hundreds of others who’ve gone before me – preserved lemons are really easy to prepare at home. All you need is a clean glass jar, a few (ideally unwaxed) lemons and some salt.

Here are some simple steps to follow:

  • Get a sterilised 500ml glass jar, 3-4 (unwaxed) lemons and some good quality salt (I use Himalayan salt).
  • Ideally choose a jar with a rubber seal like the one in my photo below – as they allow gas to escape during fermentation.
  • Slice a small piece off both ends of the lemons, then slice them into quarters going only 80% of the way down (leave one end 20% intact).
  • Put a teaspoon of salt into the sterilised glass jar and another teaspoon or so inside each lemon (ie in the gap between the quarters).
  • Add each lemon to the jar one at a time – with the open end facing down. Squeeze the juices out and add another teaspoon of salt between each lemon.
  • Then add enough lemon juice from an additional lemon to cover the lemons in juice. Firmly press down the lemons until they’re submerged.
  • Cover the jar and allow the microbes to work their magic in a cool room for around 4 weeks.
  • If you can follow Elaine’s tip of turning (or lightly shaking) the jar every few days to disperse the salty liquid.
  • Once fermented preserved lemons keep in the refrigerator for 6-12 months – chances are though you’ll find lots of creative ways to use them and they won’t last that long.

How to Preserve LemonsFor inspiration on how you can spice up preserved lemons and ideas on how to use them check out Elaine’s post – Preserved Lemon Heaven.

Last but not least – if you have any ideas on how I can use my preserved lemons then I’d love to hear from you! And you may also been keen to try making your own sauerkraut – another simple way to ferment at home.




28 thoughts on “How to Preserve Lemons

  1. A great post, Laura. I’ve never got around to preserving my own lemons but have always wanted to give it a try. Your post makes it sound so easy. I would definitely go down the route of a Moroccan stew – love preserved lemon used in that way.

  2. They look great! I love home made preserved lemons but for some reason I can’t get along with shop bought ones, or the ones I have tried. Yours, and Elaine’s look absolutely delicious 🙂

      • hi Laura
        Sadly I don’t have any fruit trees at the allotment or in the garden. I almost got an allotment with a fig tree but it was much smaller that the one we got so not even then. I am not sure if lemons would be happy here as we do get frost sometimes. I would love to have a lemon tree, and an avocado tree as well! I might have to move south 🙂

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