Lemons are a mainstay for any kitchen, helping to brighten any dish with acidity and heighten flavours. Preserved lemons add something on a whole new level, adding a small wedge to a dish injects a unique lemoniness that pervades through the whole thing. This really simple cured lemon recipe is something you have got to try yourself.
Originally, lemons would have been preserved for the simple reason of having them last longer, the same reason any food is preserved. The method of preserving the lemons, however, completely transforms them. The method of preserving is a mix of curing and pickling using salt, the effect is to change the size, texture and flavour of the lemons in a way that intensifies and softens the lemons making them incredibly savoury.
Preserving Lemons With Salt
The method of preserving lemons is very simple to do and only requires lemons and salt. This may sound strange at first but I assure you this is worth trying for yourself.
By covering the lemons with salt we start a process where the juice of the lemon is drawn out of the fruit. The juice of a lemon is, of course, quite acidic and the resulting salty and acidic liquid acts to preserve the lemons in their own juices. Keeping the cured lemons in this acid juice acts in the same fashion as any pickle, the low pH prevents any spoilage of the lemons.
Salt Transforms The Lemons
When any food is preserved with salt the salt begins to draw water from the cells within the food. This process is called osmosis and happens in all sorts of processes. The effect of osmosis on lemons is that the salt draws water out of the lemon and the lemon, in turn, becomes salty, osmosis works by trying to balance the salinity outside the lemon and inside.
In effect, we end up with salty lemons pickled in their own lemon juice. This may not sound that appealing, but the intent is not to eat the lemons on their own but to add them to dishes. The lemon can be eaten peel and all and when added to a dish, infuses the dish with fragrant lemon as well as seasoning the dish.
The transformation is also quite apparent. When the lemons are dredged in salt and packaged in a jar they begin to shrink over the days and weeks becoming half their original size. The texture becomes silken and malleable and the flavours more intense.
Making Preserved Lemons With Salt
Making preserved lemons couldn’t be simpler. First of all, you will want to select unwaxed lemons as once the lemons are preserved the whole thing is edible including the skin. The next ingredient you will want is salt. Regular salt is fine as long as it has no additives, sea salt is great for this.
What You’ll Need To Make Preserved Lemons
- 10 Lemons
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 tbsp Peppercorns
- 1 tbsp Coriander Seeds
Preserved Lemons Method
Before you start clean and sterilise your jar or jars. If you don’t know how, take a look at this guide.
- Begin by cleaning the lemons thoroughly by scrubbing under running water. Trim the ends of the lemons by just a few millimetres.
2. Quarter 8 of the lemons but leave them attached to the base by a small amount. This opens the lemons up to allow salt to get at the flesh of the lemon.
3. To each quartered lemon, open them out and sprinkle a generous tablespoon of salt into the centre where you have cut. Reform them and place into sanitised jar. Do this for each of the lemons packing them in tightly. If you are using the herbs and spices pack them in between the lemons.
4. Once all the lemons are salted give them a push down so they are tucked together tightly. The less space between them the better.
5. Squeeze the remaining two lemons to extract the juice. Pour the lemon juice over the top of the lemons and seal the jar. If the lemons are not completely submerged add some more lemon juice the following day.
6. Over the coming days, the salt will begin drawing more and more juice from the lemons. Give them a little shake every day to mix up the salt and juice. The Lemons will be ready for about 4 weeks. Once opened store the lemons in the fridge and they will last for up to a year as long as they are submerged in the lemon juice.