12 April 2008

Putting Up Moroccan Preserved Lemons

Many Moroccan and Middle Eastern recipes call for preserved lemons. These are lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juices. It is quite easy to do but does take about 3 weeks to a month before they are ready to be used. As the old adage goes, "Good things come to those who wait."

All over the blogosphere people are singing the praises of the Meyer Lemon. Living in the "Great White North" I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to come come across this sweet lemon. It is a citrus fruit, native to China, thought to be a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange or sweet orange. The fruit is yellow and it is rounder than a true lemon with a slightly orange tint to the fragrant, edible peel when ripe. It has a sweeter, less acidic flavor than the more common Lisbon or Eureka lemons that are typical in our grocery stores. During my last trip to Choices Market low and behold...Meyer Lemons. They were even the same price as the ordinary lemons. I had hit pay dirt!! What would I do with these little beauties??

My friends Pixie of You Say Tomahto, I Say Tomayto and Rosie of Rosie Bakes a "Peace" of Cake are co-hosting an event called ‘Putting Up’. They are asking you to share your jam, conserve, jelly, marmalade, curd, butter, chutney, pickle, relish and preserves with the rest of the blogosphere. If you haven't met these talented British ladies move on over to their sites. Pull up a chair and spend a few hours browsing their delicious recipes. You don't want to miss this event either.

When making preserved lemons always use organic or unsprayed lemons, since you're going to be eating the skin. Meyer lemons work well for preserving with their milder flavour. I generally do 8-10 lemons at a time, but be sure to buy a few extra lemons for juicing, in case you need to add additional liquid to keep the lemons in the jar submerged while they 'do their thing'. To preserve lemons you should not use ordinary table salt due to its harsh chemical taste. It is recommended to use sea salt or kosher salt.

You can add thin strips of preserved lemons to any braising liquid during the last few minutes of cooking, which adds a nice bit of bright, lemony flavour to whatever you are cooking. Please take care when adding them to a recipe though since the lemons will certainly add a bit more of a salty flavour than you think. Rinse them well and all will be well with the world. Once my little beauties pass puberty I will come up with some dishes to utilize their lemony goodness. One of my favourite and most succulent roasted chicken dishes is Brined Roast Chicken with Preserved Lemons . Melt in your mouth goodness!

Also don't put your fingers into the brine to remove the lemons from jar...use a wooden spoon. This tip comes from Paula Wolfert, a great advocate of Mediterranean foods, whom you may hear a lot about in subsequent posts.

** Moroccan Preserved Lemons**

8-10 Meyer lemons*, scrubbed very clean
1/2 cup kosher or sea salt, more if needed
Extra fresh squeezed lemon juice, if needed
Sterilized quart canning jar (I used 4 smaller jars)

**cloves, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, chili peppers or combination of one or the other.

Place 2 Tbsp of salt in the bottom of a sterilized jar. In this case I used 4 sterilized jars. One by one, prepare the lemons in the following way. Cut off any protruding stems from the lemons, and cut 1/4 inch off the tip of each lemon. Cut the lemons as if you were going to cut them in half lengthwise, starting from the tip, but do not cut all the way. Keep the lemon attached at the base. Make another cut in a similar manner, so now the lemon is quartered, but again, attached at the base.

Pry the lemons open and generously sprinkle salt all over the insides and outsides of the lemons.

Pack the lemons in the jar, squishing them down so that juice is extracted and the lemon juice rises to the top of the jar. Add chili peppers, coriander seeds, bay leaves, peppercorns and cinnamon (or a combination of a few or only one). Fill up the jar with lemons. Press the lemons very firmly in the jar to get their juices flowing. Cover and let stand a few hours. Press down on the lemons once again to extract more juice. Make sure the top is covered with lemon juice. Add more fresh squeezed lemon juice if necessary. Top with a couple tablespoons of salt and more spices.

Seal the jar with sterilized lids and let sit at room temperature for a couple days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally. Put in refrigerator and let sit, again turning upside down occasionally, for at least 3 weeks to one month, until lemon rinds soften and are ready to use.

To use, remove a lemon from the jar and rinse thoroughly in water to remove salt. Discard seeds before using. Discard the pulp before using, if desired.

Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.
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  1. I have never preserved lemons or even tasted them in anything, so I'm very intrigued.

  2. I just gifted myself a tagine and many of the recipes call for preserved lemons - I'm so excited to make these.

  3. These are absolutely YUM Val! I agree totally...'Good things come to those who wait'!! Mike @ Mike's table uses preseved lemons in a Moroccan stew! I made lime preserves too...we don't have Meyers etc here...just limes!! Your preserves are to die for. I LOVE 'EM!!

  4. I'm going to preserve my own lemons after finishing the jar I bought.

    I look forward to your dishes using these.

  5. I don't know anything about the use of these lemons. Shall wait to see some of your recipes.

  6. I've seen many recipes that call for preserved lemons and the only time I tried to make them they turned out VERY wrong. Thank you for posting such an easy recipe. I've got it bookmarked!

  7. Val, this is absolutely wonderful; I'm so pleased we started this event as I'm learning so much about preserving from everyone else!!! Thank you so much for participating and I'm looking forward to reading your recipes for these preserved lemons in the future. Also, ta for your very kind words Val, you're such a doll. ;)

  8. Moroccan preserved lemons sounds really interesting. I to have bee looking for meyer lemons though I have not had any luck yet.

  9. Canning is something I keep saying I'm going to do but, never seem to find the time to do it. They sure look good ... OK maybe this year I will do some myself.

  10. Now Im regretting I didnt do this. They were all over the place. Thgis event looks exciting.

  11. I have never tried preserving lemons. I would love to try it one day. I am looking forward to you chicken recipe. It sounds terrific.

  12. A very educational intro on Meyer lemons. This is a wonderful preserve and I'm sure will come in handy for all my wonderful winter stews.

  13. Valli. I have never heard of these, how did I miss? They look lovely, and seem like they would make great homemade gifts!

  14. I love preserved lemons (thank you for the reminder to make them!) - one of our favourite things to do is chop them and put them into couscous to go with Moroccan-style chicken with prunes and apricots.

    I make the preserved lemon recipe in Patricia Wells' "At Home in Provence" that is ready to go in 7 days. But I've never tried using Meyer lemons - alas, I don't even know what a Meyer lemon looks like. Nor have I added chilis and spices - good idea!

    Are Meyer lemon peels tougher than regular lemon peels and that's why this recipe takes three weeks before they're ready?


    P.S. I see that I am your "Taste & Create" partner. I'm having a lot of fun wandering through your archives looking at fabulous dishes.

  15. Those are beautiful, Valli. I have so much lamb in my freezer that would be perfect for that! Or you could eat them with some poppy seed and shredded potato on a bialy. Yummeh.

  16. Give it a try Sylvie, you can even just can one or tow lemons to see how you like it:D
    They are very Moroccan Giz..I would love to have a tagine:D
    I even saw some kind of tiny thin skinned lime at the grocers as well Deeba:D
    I knew you might Peter, you are always trying new and exciting things:D
    Morocco here I come "sis" Ivy:D
    I find this recipe to be easy, fun and foolproof Mary:D
    I'm glad you started this event as well Rose:D
    Meyer lemons are seasonal and sometimes elusive Kevin, but as you already know you can use regular lemons or limes as well:D
    I do very little canninh anymore Chuck. That may change this year:D
    You cans still use regular lemons Glamah if you're inclined to give it a try:D
    I want to try some new things with my preserved lemons KJ, so I will be on the search for all recipes. Anyone have any suggestions??
    I know you can use preserved lemons in stews and tagines, I am looking for summer recipes Peter G...I wonder what I will find?
    I thought they would maske pretty gifts as well Marye...our great minds are still thinking alike:D
    I have made a preserved lemon that is ready to go overnight Elizabeth, the longer they sit the sifter the skin and I imagine the saltier they get as well. I am looking forward to our T & C partnership. So many delcious recipes on your blog... I have chosen my dish...it was just inevitable:D

  17. Aside from putting preserved lemons into couscous, we also like to caramelize garlic in olive oil and toss the garlic and chopped preserved lemons with spaghettini. It makes a great side for a grilled chop.


    P.S. You've chosen already? I really don't know how to decide. There are so many of your dishes that look so good.

  18. I have never had a preserved lemon or a Meyer lemon! I have looked for them down here, but a no go. Next time I am up north, they are on the top of my list. Your lemons look great!!! Now tell me, how are you going to use these preserved lemons?

  19. This is making me feeling better. I was beginning to think I was the only foodie who had never actually tried a Meyer lemon.

  20. I've never done curd or jam before. Your pictures look soooooo beautiful... those colours are really bright and contrasting!!! I think that what I like the most about your post is the recipe for your Brined Roasted Chicken with Preserved Lemons; this one, I would like to taste :D

  21. Thanks for the recipe Val, I love preserved lemons when I've had them in restaurants, but have never gotten hold of them for cooking at home. I don't know if I'll be able to get meyer lemons - but I'll have a go with normal ones if not!

  22. Hi Val, Oh my your preserved lemons are absolutely wonderful!! Gosh they taste so good in a chicken tagine :)

    Thank you SO much for partaking in this event and also for your kind words :)

    Rosie x

  23. I love the color, Valli! How beautiful preserves, jams, and jellies look in their jars on a shelf all in a row :)

  24. I have never actually even tried preserved lemons. I've been seeing them over the blogosphere lately, though, and I am so intrigued! The colors are gorgeous!

  25. I love making preserved lemons with Eureka lemons -- Meyer lemons would be a luxury here, because they are so expensive, but I can imagine that they are delicious. I always have a few jars in the refrigerator, ready for tagine dishes or for soups, or even for a nice tomato salad.

  26. This looks excellent! Way back when I first tried preserved lemons, I wanted to make two jars (one with spices, one without) to compare the two, but luck was against me and all the Meyer lemons just disappeared (they were available for like a week :o ). How did you like what the whole spices did for your preserved lemons? I can imagine the results would be really tasty. I can't wait to see what other dishes you make using these...

  27. Wow! Those lemons look fantastic :)


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