When lemons go on sale in the winter, buy a whole bunch and preserve them. Preserved lemons will last a year, or more. At least that’s the theory. I don’t really know, because there are so many wonderful ways to use preserved lemons that they never last more then a few months in our house.
½ C kosher or non-iodized salt
additional fresh squeezed lemon juice, if needed.
Sterilized jar with tight-fitting lid
You can use any jar (not necessarily a canning jar) as long as it has a clean, tight-fitting lid. For my most recent batch I used a wide-mouth ½ gallon canning jar with a plastic lid. I like the wide mouth because I can get my hands inside to squash the lemons down and the plastic lid won’t corrode in the presence of salt. This jar holds 9 lemons.
Choose unblemished fruit and scrub well with a vegetable brush to remove wax and surface dirt. Cut off the stem end and about ¼ inch of the blossom end to remove excess peel. Cut the lemon in lengthwise into quarters or sixths.
Put 2 tablespoons of salt in the bottom of the jar. Pack 3-4 lemons in as tightly as you can and sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of salt. Repeat, packing more lemons in and sprinkling with salt until all the lemons are packed in the jar. Sprinkle the remaining salt on top. You should have about 1” of space between the lemon and the rim of the jar. If the lemons have not released enough juice so that all the lemons are covered in juice, squeeze another lemon or two so that you have enough juice to cover the lemons.
Place the jar in a dark, undisturbed cupboard in the kitchen. Turn the jar upside down every couple of days so that the salt is distributed evenly throughout the jar. Lemons are cured and can be used after about three weeks.
To use, remove the lemons from the jar using tongs or a fork to prevent contamination. Immediately put the lid back on, tip the jar back and forth a couple times to redistribute the salt and lemon juice. For long term storage, store in a cool room, 45° or cooler (like the basement or an unheated room.)
Now that you have this lovely jar of preserved lemons, what are you going to do with it? There are dozens of recipes using preserved lemons, most of them from north Africa or Southeast Asia, but you can also find some western dishes adapted to use this tasty condiment.
Although it’s not authentic to the recipe, I like to add root vegetables (carrots, yams, potatoes, radishes, turnips or kohlrabi) and let them cook in the spicy, lemony juices.
2 lbs chicken thighs and drumsticks
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 Tbsp freshly ground ginger
½ tsp turmeric
1 cinnamon stick, broken OR ½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic, pressed
4-5 preserved lemon sections,
½ C sliced green olives, or other brined olive
¼ C chopped parsley
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
½ C chicken broth
sliced root vegetables (optional)
Heat olive oil and brown chicken in the oil. Remove chicken to a casserole dish. Slice the lemon peel into long strips and dice the lemon pulp. Add onion, garlic and spices to the hot oil and sauté until onions are tender and the spices release their aroma. Add lemons and stir. Pour the sautéd ingredients over the chicken. Add olives, broth and vegetables (if desired.) Cover and cook in a slow cooker on high for 2-3 hours or in the oven at 350° for 1 hr or until chicken is done. Add parsley and cilantro for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.
Serve over couscous or rice.