RECIPES: Preserved Lemons as Pickles or in Salt are Yellow and Mellow

Pickled-Lemons-and-PeppersLots of lemons in stock? Why not preserve them for the winter? Miriam offers 2 creative ways.

Now is when lemons are plentiful and cheap, so take advantage and put some up. That was Hamutal’s advice earlier this year when she gave us a recipe for fresh lemon curd.

A jarful of preserved lemon quarters comes in handy for those times when you’ve run out of fresh. But the truth is that cooks in the Middle East like preserved lemons because their taste has softened and mellowed, giving a good acidic balance to mild, pungent, or bland flavors in a dish.

The first of the following recipes was taken from Elizabeth David’s Spices, Salt, and Aromatics in the English Kitchen.

The second comes from Claudia Roden’s Book of Middle Eastern Food (1974). This book has an updated version from 2004, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

Lemons Preserved in Salt

From Elizabeth David

1. Steep four whole lemons in cold water for 3 days. Change the water daily.

2. Cut the lemons into quarters or eighths and pack them in a glass jar. Add 1 level tablespoon of coarse salt to each lemon. Put two layers of baking parchment directly over them, and weigh them down with something heavy. Ms. David recommended a clean smooth stone. In warm weather, keep the jar in the fridge.

3. At the end of the week, the lemons will have released their juice, forming a brine. Remove the paper and the weight, cover the jar, and keep in in the fridge. Wait 2-3 weeks to use.

Lemons preserved this way will keep one year.

Pickled Lemons (Lamoun Makbouss)

From Claudia Roden

Ms. Roden recommends preserving limes this way, too.

1. Scrub lemons well and slice them thinly.

2. Sprinkle generously with salt and leave them to drain in a colander at least 24 hours. This will dissipate their bitterness and “cook” them soft.

3. Put them in layers in a glass jar, sprinkling paprika between the layers.

4. Cover them with a neutral-flavored oil.  According to Mrs. Roden, olive oil is too strongly flavored and may dominate the lemons.

5. Close the jar tightly and wait 3 weeks before using. They are best kept in the fridge.

They will be soft and “a beautiful orange color.”

Alternately, you may freeze the lemon slices and proceed to salt them while they’re still frozen. They will release much of their juice and become soft. Proceed as above; the lemons will be ready in only a few days.

How do you cook with these yellow gems? The flavor of lemon and salt is very intense. Rinse the piece before cooking with it. The best part is the peel – some cooks scoop the pulp out and discard it. I use the whole thing.

Consider these ideas:

  • Chop a little piece fine and mash it into a vinaigrette dressing.
  • Gently mix a few fine slices into steamed broccoli; drizzle some olive oil over everything.
  • Add a teaspoon of chopped preserved lemon to pea soup.
  • Put a little bowl of those bright yellow lemon quarters on the table to accompany lamb chops.
  • Prepare a fillet of fish with a drizzle of olive oil, some chopped basil or green onion, and a few thin slices of preserved lemon. Bake or pan-fry.

Enjoy!

More Middle East recipes:
A Classic Recipe for Muhamarra Red Pepper Spread From Aleppo, Syria
Taking On A Middle East Classic: Baba Ganoush
Cooking the Classic Middle East Kibbeh

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30 thoughts on “RECIPES: Preserved Lemons as Pickles or in Salt are Yellow and Mellow”

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  3. James says:

    is this the same as lemon baladi? we are really missing that over here in the UK. I found a jar of organised preserved lemons, but its not quite the same. I know 'baladi' means mixed or mess, but there something gorgeous and spicier about the lemon baladi on sale in the Middle East……

  4. James says:

    is this the same as lemon baladi? we are really missing that over here in the UK. I found a jar of organised preserved lemons, but its not quite the same. I know 'baladi' means mixed or mess, but there something gorgeous and spicier about the lemon baladi on sale in the Middle East……

  5. Maurice says:

    I did a batch of “lemonin Mizri” (Egyptian lemons) using the small ones known as “lemonin Sini” (Chinese lemons. The lemons came of a neighbor's tree and are 100% organic. Took a month to “process” using both salt and paprika in a sealed jar. I also make my own olives which take at least 2 months before being ready to eat.

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  10. These recipes sound so yummy. I love pickled lemons. The Tunesia restaurant's in Jaffa just makes my mouth water thinking about them. Can't wait to try your lemons. Since you are using lemon rinds in the recipe, it is probably advised to buy organic lemons. Citrus fruits tend to get a lot of spray which is held in the oils of the rinds. I'd go organic but just make sure they are washed well and that there are no insect larvae squirming around inside – unless you are looking for a little extra protein….

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