Moroccan Preserved Lemons

3 jars of preserved lemons

You can file this one under any of the following categories:

    1. Recipes to make during social distancing that don’t require a special trip to the store
    2. Stovetop cooking that will scent your entire house with clean, lemony goodness
    3. Condiments that add a unique complexity to your weeknight standards

My prolific lemon tree is pregnant with fragrant fruit again. Unfortunately, this yellow-orbed bounty resides in my front yard – easily accessible for plucking from neighbors and fruit sellers alike. I welcome the neighbors; not so much those that profit from purloined pickings. Fully ripe in April, the bountiful tree is often stripped bare by July. While I’m sequestered at home, I’ve been staring through my front window at the pounds of pluckable citrus, chiding myself for not using this stretch of time to whip up a pitcher or two of fresh lemonade  before the fruit disappears.

Yesterday, a coworker (yes, a real coworker – not my cats) reminded me of another use – preserved lemons. Preserved lemons are an indispensable ingredient in Moroccan cooking and add a tart, salty, spicy, somewhat bitter punch that can’t be duplicated with lemon juice or zest. How could I forget preserved lemons – one of my top five favorite ingredients? In culinary school, during my final exams, my Moroccan-Spanish menu demanded jars of preserved lemons – for empanadas, for tagines, for a decadently rich dark chocolate tart. One of my favorite uses is simply adding preserved lemons to roasted fingerling potatoes.

I claim that this recipe doesn’t require a special trip to the store, but I also realize that most people don’t necessarily keep items like coriander seeds in their pantry. This recipe is great for substitutions – or leaving spices out completely. If you only have ground versions of any of the spices, use ⅛ or ¼ teaspoon instead. The only things you really need are lemons, kosher salt and water, although some of the spicy complexity will be lost.

Here’s a few of my recipes that call for preserved lemons:
Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon
Farro and Pomegranate Salad


Moroccan Preserved Lemons

  • Servings: 2 lemons, One 16 oz. jar
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Preserved lemons are an indispensable ingredient in Moroccan cooking and add a tart, salty, spicy, somewhat bitter punch to recipes.


Ingredients

  • 2 lemons
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 Tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about 3” long)
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns

Directions

  1. Rinse lemons and score peels down length of lemons, about 1-inch apart. In a saucepan, combine lemons, water and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the peel can be pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.
  2. Transfer lemons to a canning jar, pressing down slightly to release a bit of juice. Reserve salt water in pan. Add cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, and black peppercorns to lemons in jar.
  3. Pour reserved salt water over lemons, filling jar and submerging lemons completely. Seal with lid.
  4. Cool completely and refrigerate, turning jar occasionally. Allow lemons to rest for at least 5 days and up to 3 months. To preserve for longer than 3 months, use your preferred canning method.

NOTE: You may notice a lacy, white substance clinging to preserved lemons in the jar. It is perfectly harmless, but should be rinsed off for aesthetic reasons just before the lemons are used.

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