How To Make Preserved Lemons

(Image credit: Kathryn Hill)

I recently acquired a lot of meyer lemons from my neighbor’s tree. I can only drink so much lemonade, eat so many lemon pies, and make so much marmalade! So I decided to make preserved lemons, and it was ridiculously easy. Now I have several jars of preserved lemons that I can use in Middle Eastern recipes.

What You Need

8 to 10 lemons (I used Meyer, but you can use any regular lemon)
Kosher salt

1 quart-sized wide mouth jar with lid


1. Sterilize the jar in boiling water for 15 minutes.

2. Scrub the lemons under running water with a stiff brush to remove any dirt and impurities.

3. Slice off the stem end and the tip end of each lemon. Starting at one end, cut the lemons in half lengthwise, but stop about 1/2 an inch before you reach the bottom. Repeat the cut perpendicularly so you have cut each lemon lengthwise in a “X” formation, but not all the way through; they should still be attached at the bottom, about 1/2 an inch.

4. Liberally sprinkle salt on the inside and outside of the lemons. Hold them open with your fingers and really get the salt inside them.

5. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt to the bottom of the sterilized jar. Place each lemon in the jar, pushing down on them and squeezing them to release the juices. Fill the jar but leave about 3/4 an inch of headroom. The lemons should be completely submerged in juice. If you can’t get enough juice out of them, remove a lemon wedge or juice a lemon and add it to the jar. Add 2 more tablespoons of salt to the top. Seal the jar.

6. Let the jar sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. Each day, turn it upside down and shake it to distribute the salt and liquids.

7. Put the jar in the refrigerator and turn it upside down every other day or so.

8. The lemons will be ready in three weeks, when the rinds have softened. When using, rinse your lemon thoroughly in water to remove excess salt. Discard seeds.

9. These will keep in the refrigerator for six months.

Additional Notes:
You can add spices such as cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, coriander seeds, cloves, peppercorns, dried chiles, and cardamom pods.

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(Images: Kathryn Hill)