You preserve lemons by packing them with salt and lemon juice, then leaving them in a cool dark place for at least a month. Over time, the tartness of the lemon all but disappears but the intense lemon flavor found in the peel remains, making this a deeply flavoured condiment.
Pickled lemons and preserved lemons are essentially the same thing – since pickling by definition is letting something marinate in a salty liquid. However if you cut the lemons up into smaller pieces, you can make quick pickled lemons with almost all of the flavour of the month-long preserved lemons. Just faster.
Here’s how to make preserved lemons.
- 600 g lemons - about 5
- 145 g salt - about half a cup
- 400-500 mls fresh lemon juice - about 1 and1/2 to 2 cups
- Wash and dry a 1L (4-cup) capacity glass jar with a plastic or plastic-lined lid (a metal lid could corrode). Wash and dry lemons to remove any surface dust or dirt. Scrub the skin to lift any dirt or grit that's hard to remove
- Cut one end of each lemon, about 5mm from the base, so they sit flat. Place 1 lemon at a time, cut-side down, on a chopping board and cut lengthways into quarters without cutting all the way through to the base. Repeat with remaining lemons. Place the lemons, in a single layer, in a freezer bag and expel air. Seal and place in freezer overnight. Remove from freezer and transfer to the fridge to thaw for 6 hours or overnight. This helps soften the rind and speeds up the maturation process.
- Fill each lemon with as much salt as possible. Salt extracts juice from the lemon, softening the rind. Push lemons into jar. Sprinkle over remaining salt
- Pour over enough lemon juice to completely cover lemons. Seal, label and date. Place in a cool place, away from direct sunlight, for at least 4 weeks. Once lemons have settled in jar, you might need to add more lemon juice to ensure the lemons remain covered. The lemons will start to soften and might start to float. As a result, they may not stay entirely covered with juice and may develop a harmless white mould.
- To use, remove a lemon from brine and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towel. Use a sharp knife to cut flesh from rind. Discard flesh. Cut off white pith from rind. Discard pith.