Preserved Lemons: a Gift From My Neighbors & The Well Done Chef

I got a load of lemons today.

It’s citrus season is Southern California, and you know I am always up for a little urban foraging!

So that is just how I started my day, sack in hand rummaging through the branches of my neighbors fruit trees. Just so you know, I have rules about foraging. So don’t accuse me of stealing. All my “victims” are either willing participants or silly people who stupidly planted their citrus so that the branches hang out onto public thoroughfares! So you see, these details make my harvest perfectly legal. Still, I never take more than 2 or 3 pieces of fruit from each tree… I do have some scrupples!

But once I was home, I was faced with the decision of what to do with my haul… A dessert popped in my brain. I do like lemon desserts, and considered a lemon sabayon tart. Besides, Sippity Sup has been abondonded by its readership and a pretty dessert always brings the strays in my flock back home. I may still do that dessert too, because I have a lot of lemons. But there is no time to bake today. I have other committments.

skiced lemonnBut I got lucky. I was over at Well Done Chef and he had a photo of Preserved Lemons as part of his picture a day for an entire year series. Well, his intention in showing this photo was to let us all know that Preserved Lemons keep for a very long time. His evidently went in the brine in June. This is good information (which is his specialty), but to me it said something else entirely. It reminded me that I have been meaning to take a stab at Preserved Lemons for years.

Well, my wait finally ended. I made Preserved Lemons today using his (slightly adapted) recipe! I say slightly adapted because I converted all the measurements that were in weight into volume measurements. He’s going to hate that! And in theory I know he’s is 100% right on this point, but I just can’t seem to let my addiction to volume go. I figure this is a recipe where it won’t matter so much. Maybe he’ll let me slide. It’s a good thing he doesn’t know where I live!

Of course, there is one more thing. I should have realized via the name Preserved Lemons that these babies were going to take sometime before they are ready to be used in a recipe. Because these need to sit for at least 30 days before I can use them! Oh well, it gives me plenty of time to decide what I’ll do with them. So “Thank You” Well Done Chef. That’s one more item I can cross of my bucket list.

And if you have not been over there to visit him I suggest you give him a look see. Because, as he likes to say he’s all about “Real Food Through Solid Technique”. That’s something we can all use.

Preseved Lemons makes about 4 cups CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 12 lemons, scrubbed, slit in quarters, but not entirely through
  • 1⁄2 c kosher salt
  • 1 T coriander seeds
  • 1 t whole black peppercorns
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 2 t red pepper flakes
  • 6 2 inch sticks of cinnamon
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, if necessary

preserving lemonsSlice through the core of the lemon vertically, taking care not to slice all the way through. You will have a nice lemon flower.

Grab one lemon at a time; sprinkle some salt inside, then place it into container face down. Using the bottom of a drinking glass, flatten the lemon, squeezing out as much juice as possible.

Continue working until you pack all the salted lemons tightly into the container; arrange them attractively so they will look good while brining. (It is for show as well!)

Use a stick or the handle of a spoon to wedge the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks  all around, evenly distributed. If you find that the amount juice in the container is not covering the lemons, add a bit of lemon juice to cover. Do not use water or commercially prepared lemon juice. You may need to sink the lemons to assure good coverage. I used a small plate to keep them submerged.

Do not refrigerate them just yet. Avoid the temptation for at least 48 hours. The salt will help the lemons release more of their liquid if left at at room temperature. for awhile.

Once the lemons are on their way, put them in the refrigerator in the back for at least 30 days before using them.

To use, wash off brine, separate pulp from the rind, and use according to the recipe.


Greg Henry