Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quick "Preserved" Lemons: A Sunny Pickle from Morocco

It was pure serendipity that I found a piece by Mark Bittman about preserving lemons the day after I couldn’t resist buying a bargain bag of lemons at a farmers market. I love to keep fresh lemons about. They’re nearly magical to me – a bit of juice and zest can transcend every day steamed broccoli to heavenly status.

But I had forgotten that I already had an ample supply and what was I going to do with all of them? The notion of preserving lemons lured me to read on. (And the bargain bag of lemons was past its prime begging for some kind of salvation.)

These “preserved” lemons aren’t really so; they’re kind of like refrigerator cucumber pickles. But it was only going to take a few hours of sitting in sugar and salt to salvage my impetuous purchase. Perfect.

The hardest part of making these lemons was preparing them. Bittman recommends using organic or unwaxed lemons, and if they’re not organic, they’re probably waxed. To remove the wax, you need to blanch the lemons in boiling water for 30 seconds, then rub the wax off with a towel.

The concept of preserved lemons is new to me and I learned that this relish is a staple in Moroccan cooking. It’s a sweet-sour-salty condiment that usually sits for weeks fermenting. Recipes – like most pickle recipes – vary widely and may include everything from shallots and garlic to cinnamon sticks and coriander seeds.

This very simple “minimalist” approach of Bittman’s worked out very well for me. The preserved lemons will last up to a week in the refrigerator – a lot longer than they would for me otherwise! He recommends them as a complement to almost any stew, simply cooked fish or chicken. What did I do with them? I ate them straight from the jar, for one thing; and I added them to a leftover black bean dish and it gave the beans a fresh new life.

Preserved Lemons
from Mark Bittman, The New York Times
4 unwaxed or organic lemons
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Cut the lemons – peel, rind, flesh and all – into small pieces, about ¼ inch or less. Remove as many seeds as you can. Put the chopped lemon into a bowl, add the sugar and salt, cover and let sit at room temperature for at least three hours. Stir every so often. Then place them in a jar and refrigerate. Will keep for a week.


  1. I've always wanted to try preserved lemons...both eating them and making them...I've never done either. They look so yummy! I like this simple method...

  2. I imagine that these lemons add so much brightness to a dish. I love Moroccan food, so I need to try these in the very near future. Thank you for a simple, unique recipe!

  3. Don't think I am going to "bite" on this one. lol My choice would have been lemonade.

  4. What a simple recipe! this looks great!

  5. I have found numerous uses for my preserved lemons in salad dressing, tagines...anything that need a punch of "sunny" flavour.


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