A staple of Middle Eastern cooking, preserved lemons add a unique pickled tanginess to dishes. You can find preserved lemons in stores, but the homemade kind is so much more flavorful. I find this project to be easier with small lemons, such as those sold in bags at the grocery stores. I especially like to make preserved lemons during the winter months when citrus is in season and you can find lots of different varieties.
Once your lemons are ready, you can package two or three in an 8-ounce jar for swapping or gifting. They make for a beautiful presentation, especially if you add a bit of rosemary or a chile to the jar. A small amount of preserved lemon adds a lot of flavor to a dish, so three whole preserved lemons will actually last
quite a while.
- Yield: 3 (8-ounce) jars with 3-4 preserved lemons
- 1 48-ounce box kosher salt
- 10–12 small lemons, preferably organic
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 3 dried red chiles
- Sterilize a quart-size glass jar: pour in boiling water to fill and allow the water to sit for a few minutes. Drain the jar and allow it to air-dry.
- Cover the bottom of the jar with a thin layer of kosher salt, about 3 tablespoons.
- Cut a deep X into the top of each lemon, taking care not to cut all the way through the fruit.
- Add a teaspoon of kosher salt to the middle of the first lemon and drop it in the bottom of the jar. Repeat with two other lemons and place them in the jar, mashing them with the end of a wooden spoon to release the juices and to form a relatively even layer of lemons at the bottom of the jar. Fill in the spaces between the lemons with salt.
- Repeat with three more lemons to form a second layer. Repeat with the remaining lemons until the jar is full. Slide the sprigs of rosemary along the sides of the jar and add the chiles.
- If the lemons are not submerged in juice at this point, squeeze one or more additional lemons and add the juice to the jar until the lemons are submerged. You can also add a little water if needed. Cover with a layer of salt and seal. Mark the date.
- Store the jar in a cool place for at least 4 weeks, shaking several times a week to distribute the salt and juice. The lemons are ready to use when the rinds have softened. Prior to using, rinse off the excess salt. Typically only the rind is used and the pulp is discarded.