Salt-Preserved Lemons

Preparation info

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    Preserved Lemons

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As a child I could not get enough lime pickle from India. So when in Morocco I tasted preserved lemons for the first time, I fell in love. They improve almost any salsa, relish, chutney, or mayonnaise. They also flavor simple and compound butters and the sauces you can make out of them. The lemons are particularly good when mixed with mint, basil, or tarragon. And a teaspoon here and there of the liquid they are stored in will correct that “something is lacking” in almost any savory dish.

You can also make this recipe with limes, kumquats (which only take a week to cure), and other sour citrus fruits. Do make sure that the spices you use are freshly bought.

Preserved lemons are best to make in large quantities, so give some away as presents, or store for up to three months in the refrigerator. To use, squeeze the juice from the lemon back into the jar (though I do use the juice for flavoring almost anything savory and even some herb pound cakes) scrape away the flesh, seeds, and pith, and chop the rind.

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  • 16 medium lemons
  • ½ cup sugar
  • cups kosher salt
  • 10 whole allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4–6 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice


Roll each lemon around on the table for a minute to release its juices and then cut an X 1 inch deep in both ends of each lemon.

Mix the sugar and salt together in a bowl. Stuff as much of the mixture as possible into the cuts in the lemon and then roll each lemon in the mixture until well coated. Save any leftover sugar-salt mixture for your next batch of lemons. Place the lemons in a big sterilized mason jar or other glass container, packing them in fairly tightly. Cover and leave at room temperature for 8 hours.

Mix all the spices and bay leaves with the two juices. Pour over the lemons, making sure that the liquid surrounds all the fruit. Weight down with a plate and heavy can so that all the lemons stay submerged. Cover and leave out at room temperature for a week, turning the jar every day to evenly distribute the salt, spices, and juices. Then refrigerate for 3 to 4 weeks, again turning the lemons around in the container once a week.

At this point, strain the liquid, and pour it back over the lemons. Keep them covered and refrigerated, and use as needed for up to 3 months.