Preserved lemons are super easy to make and ridiculously overpriced in the shops. All you need is lemons and salt and, if you want, some cloves and cinnamon. Selma makes it even easier and says you just need olive oil and lemons. We’ve made both this year, thanks to a very generous neighbour with a lemon tree and an agenda of wanting more salted lemons from us.
The salted lemons seem to keep forever. We’ve just opened the last jar from two years ago, and it tastes wonderful. I’d encourage everyone to make these and then ‘forget’ about them for a couple of years. The wait is well worth it.
To use them, just take out a couple of slices, scrape out the flesh and wash thoroughly. Unless you find a recipe that says otherwise, you use only the skin.
For the lemons in oil, I’ve not made them before. The idea is to use the oil: you end up with a lovely, lemony olive oil. Selma says one of her friends used to just top up the jar with more oil so that she had a constant supply. Apparently it can get a bit fizzy, so I might find myself opening the lid to release some gas every now and again. I don’t know how long it’ll last unopened, though. Maybe Selma can tell us.
Salted preserved lemons
- 250 grams of coarse, non-iodised salt
- 10 lemons (organic and unwaxed)
- for each jar: 1 small bay leaf, 2-3 cloves, 1 splinter of cinnamon, 2-3 peppercorns,4-6 coriander seeds
- extra lemon juice
- Scrub the lemons and sterilise the jars. Make sure everything is clean and dry before you continue.
- Put a spoonful of salt into each jar so it covers the bottom.
- Cut the lemons into eighths and combine with about half of the salt in a large bowl. The easiest way is to use your hands to mix the salt in.
- Pack the salted lemons into the jars, so the peel is on the outside. Press them down hard so they are packed in tightly, so you can fit more in, and so you release the juice.
- After you’ve added a few lemon pieces, insert a splinter of a cinnamon stick vertically in the centre of the jar, and pack the lemon pieces around it. Add the cloves and bay leaf as you go. Add an extra spoonful of salt every few layers.
- IMPORTANT: At the top, add any left over salt and lemon sludge from the bowl, or an extra spoonful of salt, and top up with more lemon juice. The lemons must be covered with juice to preserve them.
- Wipe the top of the jar so it’s free from salt, and close the lid tightly.
- Put it in a cupboard for at least a month to let the flavours develop, but it’s better if you can leave it alone for six months or even more.
Salt: Use non-iodised salt for this. Iodine can make preserves go cloudy, so it’s best to avoid for this. How much? The amounts vary: from ½ cup for 10 lemons (adding salt directly to the jar over each layer of lemons) to 250 grams (using the method here). I’ve never added too much if taste is anything to go by, so as long as you have ‘enough’ you’ll probably be okay.
Jars: We use old jars (washed and sterilised). A few years of experience has taught us to use smaller jars. We use only one or two slices of lemon a dish because the salted lemon is quite strong, and an opened jar does go off in the fridge … eventually.
I’ve never had this happen, but I’ve read about a white, lacy bloom appearing on some lemons. This apparently isn’t a problem, and you should just wipe it off for appearance’ sake.
Source: Adapted from The Cook’s Companion. The Complete Book of Ingredients and Recipes for the Australian Kitchen. 1996. By Stephanie Alexander. Penguin Books Ltd: London.
Lemons in olive oil
- a good quality olive oil
- Wash the lemons and wash and sterilise the jars, then let everything dry.
- Pop the lemons into the jar and fill with olive oil, making sure the lemons are well covered.
- Store in a cupboard for at least a month to let the flavours develop.
Source: Thanks to Selma’s Table for the excellent idea in her Home-made Lemon Olive Oil and Dukkah.