An essential ingredient in North African, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisines, this powerful condiment adds brightness and complex tang to a variety of dishes. Once you start using them, you’ll find yourself adding them to salad dressings, sauces, even pound cakes.
Use organic lemons, and do rinse them under warm water to remove their waxy exteriors. Any type of lemon works well. If you have Meyer lemons, their thin skins and sweeter flavor will yield wonderful results.
You can also add other flavorings, such as bay leaves, chile peppers, cardamom, or anise seed. Play with your favorites, or none at all. In my world, a handful of peppercorns is all I need to add a bit of depth to this sensational condiment.
I use a 32-ounce wide-mouthed jar that fits the whole batch, but you can distribute them among smaller jars, too.
Makes one 32-ounce jar
- 7 to 10 lemons
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup whole peppercorns
Set aside 2 or 3 lemons. To prepare the rest, trim the tips, and then, without cutting all the way through, cut the lemons into quarters. Place them in a large bowl and add the salt. Toss them so they are well covered, stuffing the insides with salt as well.
Transfer the salted lemons to a sterilized glass jar. Pack them in so they fit snuggly and release some juices, but are not crushed.
Squeeze the juice of the reserved 2 or 3 lemons into the jar to cover the lemons completely (you may need fewer lemons depending on how juicy they are). Add the peppercorns. Cover the top lemons with a few more tablespoons of salt.
Close the jar and let it sit in a darkish place, such as the pantry or a shelf in the kitchen, for about a month. Flip the jar upside down every week, to evenly distribute the brine.
After a month, the lemons should be soft and slightly translucent. To use, rinse them under cold water to remove the salt, and discard any seeds. You can use just the rind for garnishes and sauces; for stews and tagines, I use the whole lemon. Preserved lemons can then be stored in the fridge for up to 6 months.