My post about Meyer lemons brought about some interesting comments. This sent me to the internet to do research. To make a long story short, this post is about Moroccan preserved lemons also known as pickled lemons.
You can use Meyer lemons or any type of lemon for this dish. Moroccan’s typically use these preserved lemons as a garnish or as a main ingredient. They are very simple to make. The hardest part is the waiting because you have to wait 4 or 5 weeks before the lemons are pickled.
There are many variations to making preserved lemons. You can use lemons only or you can add spices like a cinnamon stick, a bay leaf, garlic, chili flakes, coriander, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, the list is limited to your imagination. To be clear, this is not a sweet dish nor is it to be confused with preserves that you spread on bread or scones!
Moroccans use preserved lemons in dishes like Chicken tagine with lemons and olives.
Preserved lemons are made from lemons and salt. That’s all! I wanted to make the smallest batch possible because I wasn’t sure if I would like this dish and I didn’t want to waste lemons!
So, I selected one gigantic lemon and used my smallest canning jar. You can see the size of the lemon in relation to the demitasse cup in the photo.
Not only was it a big lemon, it was juicy! This was perfect. The lemons or lemon slices in my case, have to be squashed into the jar as much as possible to release the juices.
How to make the Preserved Lemons
Put about one tablespoon of Kosher salt in the bottom of a meticulously clean canning jar.
The safest way to do this is to boil the jar and the lid for 5 minutes first, let the jar cool, dry it off, then add the salt to the jar.
Meanwhile, wash the lemon very well. I use dish washing liquid. Make sure you rinse carefully removing all soap. Then, cut off the ends and slice it into wedges.
Remove any visible seeds.
Add the first 2 wedges to the bottom of the jar then cover with more salt.
Add a couple more wedges and cover them with salt. Now, because Meyer lemons are usually used for this dish and I was using regular lemons, I decided to add a pinch of sugar.
Just a pinch! It’s optional.
Squash down the lemon wedges and if you can add more wedges, do so. Finish with a topping of salt. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt for each lemon you use. You can see that my lemon wedges are above the rim of the jar.
Screw on the lid. This is akin to closing an overstuffed suitcase, but the idea is to make juice by squeezing the lemon wedges this way. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to give each of the lemon wedges a squeeze as you put them in the jar. It’s funny that none of the recipes I saw online suggested this. If you feel that the lemon is not very juicy, add the juice of another lemon into your jar. Within a few hours, my jar was filled with lemon juice. The salt draws out the juices.
Dry off the jar if any liquid seeps out and store in your pantry or a cool, dark place for about 1 week.
Every few days, press the lemons down to release their juices then tightly screw on the lid again turning the jar upside down. Then, refrigerate for 1 month, again turning upside down every so often. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.
Once pickled, a small amount can be used in a variety of dishes. I diced some of the rind on top of a piece of sockeye salmon last night for dinner. It was perfect! Tonight I’m sprinkling some on roasted asparagus and butternut squash.
When you are ready to use the pickled lemons, rinse the salt off the lemon wedge(s) then add a small amount to a quick saute; add a pinch to mashed potatoes; add to a sauteed salmon dish; add to a roasting chicken; chop the rind and add it to a salad, etc. The flavor is intensely lemony but different from using straight lemon juice and/or zest so you only need a little bit. The peel (the zest and the pith), is the most valued part of this dish.
This is worth trying. You might become addicted! There are many variations using a variety of spices and salts. You can also pickle limes or oranges.