Preserved lemons are a staple of Moroccan and Middle Eastern cooking for good reason: they lend a rich, mellow acidity (and salinity) to any recipe they grace, imparting depth and body to dishes ranging from umami spring lamb stew to blended vegetable soups, to crisp, bitter dandelion greens. They are an absolute staple in my kitchen, and here in Sonoma County we are blessed with Meyer lemons—a sweet, juicy, fragrant, thin-skinned variety—that weigh down tree limbs in peoples’ backyards and are exchanged with friends by the grocery bag full. Usually after the lemons have ripened/pickled, the rind is used in recipes and the flesh is discarded. However, I used it all!
For this recipe, any ripe lemon will do—but if you can get your hands on some Meyers, by all means, use them!
6-8 average sized lemons
1/3 c sea salt or kosher salt
Juice from an extra 2-3 lemons (you may not need these if you’re working with very juicy lemons!)
Optional: pickling spices such as 1-2 bay leaves, 5-6 peppercorns or coriander seeds, 1/2 cinnamon stick, dried whole hot peppers or 1/2 inch piece of ginger
Clean quart-sized jar
Wash the lemons briefly but thoroughly in hot water (some recipes suggest blanching the lemons, but I think there is too much loss of volatile essential oils with boiling).
Using a sharp knife, quarter each lemon from one end to about 1/4-1/2 inch from the other end (this will keep the lemon together).
Cover the bottom of the jar with 1-2 tbsp salt.
Salt the inside of each quartered lemon. Work with one lemon at a time: press the lemon into the bottom of the jar, releasing its juices. Press the next, and the next, until the jar is nearly full, occasionally layering in extra salt by the teaspoonful. When you’ve pressed your last lemon, assess whether you need to add extra fresh lemon juice: if the lemons are not really stewing in their own juice and salt, you need more. Sprinkle what’s left of the salt on the top and cover. Let ripen for 3-5 weeks for regular lemons, and about 3-4 weeks for Meyers.
While not always necessary, these can be stored in the fridge after opening.