So many lemons and so many ways to use them! You know it is citrus season, our own lemon tree is full of fruit and the stores have an abundance on offer, meaning it is time to preserve some of this tanginess. Making preserved lemons is, seriously, one of the easiest and oldest preservation methods. Saving lemons in salt not only saves the taste of the season but adds an extra something to flavor - a light fermentation and salty punch a fresh lemon can't offer.
You start with a large sterilized jar. A Ball jar is perfect but a recycled one works well too since there will be no heating - justing sitting in salty brine. Give your fresh juicy lemons a good wash and trim off the ends. Avoid any bruised or damaged fruit, qualities that don't go with preserving. Split the lemons into forths leaving one end intact.
Now you press salt into the center of the fruit, then push the lemon into your jar. If you break the lemon, don't worry, just put it in the jar anyway. Continue in this fashion until the jar is full. I like to give the whole thing a press from the top, using a wooden spoon, to start the lemons releasing their juice. Put the lid on and then leave the jar in a dark corner of your kitchen. The juice will start to release from the lemons and the skin will begin to soften and break down a bit. After a few days, check on your jar. Open the jar and give the lemons another press, if any lemon is not in juice add enough fresh juice to cover. Then put the jar back in your dark kitchen corner for month - more if you can stand the wait. I like to transfer mine to the refrigerator at this point.
Now you are ready to use this preserved goodness in your cooking. You don't have to have a complex recipe here and I encourage you to be inventive. Really, any recipe you would use a fresh lemon or lemon zest in is a good place to start. My favorite uses of preserved lemon are in a vinaigarette or on roasted veggies. If you want a savory meat centered idea, try Nancy's Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons in the recipes section.
As a note, I also do preserved limes, mandarins and oranges - it all works and adds some nice pop to simple recipes. Don't be afraid to play with adding herbs too. I have used thyme, rosemary, peppercorns, all spice, cloves and cinnamon. Preserved citrus is a fun safe way to get creative in preserving - yay!
Fresh lemons or any citrus
Sea salt or canning salt
A large jar with a lid
Sterilize your jar. I usually submerge mine into boiling water for a few minutes.
Wash the lemons well and trim off the ends. Slice into forths leaving one end intact.
Gently open the lemons and press in about a tablespoon of salt. Sea salt and canning salt work well. I would avoid regular salt with iodine as it can impart an off color. The color change is not unsafe just not pretty.
Press the salted lemons into your jar. Once the jar is full, use a wooden spoon to compress the lemons and release some juice.
Place lidded jar in a dark kitchen corner. After 3 days, examine your jar. If any lemons are not submerged in juice add enough fresh juice to cover.
Place lidded jar back in your dark corner and ignore it for a month. It is OK to peek if you are curious. You will notice the lemon breaking down and softening.
After a month put the jar in the refrigerator.
To use a lemon you remove it one from the jar and give it a good wash. Don't worry there will still be plenty of salt and flavor. Remove any of the pulp remaining attached. Slice and use!
NOTES. I used a quart Ball jar and 4 medium sized lemons.