While you can use fresh lemons in many North African recipes, preserved lemons add a distinctive note to any dish. Unique in flavor and texture, they are a signature condiment in the North African kitchen. Preserved lemons must be prepared 3 to 4 weeks before using. Keep a constant supply in your pantry and you’ll probably find a way to use them even in dishes that are not North African in inspiration. I like them in vinaigrettes and as an addition to many fish recipes and vegetable dishes.
Put the lemons in a nonaluminum container and cover with cold water. (If you have time, soak them for 3 days, changing the water at least once a day. If not, soak for at least a few hours.) Drain the lemons and dry them well. Cut them into lengthwise quarters with a sharp knife but do not cut through the bottom of the lemon. Spoon
Seal the jars. Store in a dry place for 3 to 4 weeks before using, turning the jars upside down and right-side up periodically the first few days. Do not be alarmed if a white film forms on the lemons; it will wash off. Refrigerate after opening. Unopened jars will keep for up to 1 year.
To use the lemons, rinse well under running water. Squeeze the juice from the lemon, remove the pulp, and discard it. Cut the peel into thin slivers or fine dice.
© 2002 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.