Preserved Lemons

Ready to ferment

When I discovered preserved lemons several years ago, before I was knowingly fermenting on a daily basis, I knew I had struck gold.  Like (probably) most people, I found a recipe adapted from Paula Wolfert (seriously, try to find a preserved lemon recipe not adapted from Paula Wolfert), and I was immediately excited about the possibilities.

Preserved lemons are not your average condiment.  They are versatile:  I use them in every type of cuisine from Indian to Italian.  They brighten a dish and add a flavor that can’t be replicated or beat!  I liken it to savory lemon meringue pie.  That will sound more delicious once you’ve tasted them, I promise.  The peels are transformed into munchables, but I love to use the pulp as well in sauces and dressings.  You can also take a quarter of a finished lemon (pulp included) muddle it in a drinking glass and top it with sweetened water and chill to make Vietnamese salty lemonade.  Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!

You can make these lemons however you like, with savory seasonings (mustard seeds, dill, rosemary), sweet seasonings (remember your final product will still be salty) or no seasonings at all.  I generally use whole spices, although as an alternative you can mix your salt with powdered spices before you pack your lemons.  You do need salt and lemons, though.  Or meyer lemons, or limes or oranges.  So good!

Lemons waiting to shine


Organic citrus is more important here than it might usually be because you are actually going to eat the peel.

15 organic lemons, plus 3-4 more for juice (sub limes, oranges, meyer lemons or your other favorite citrus.)

6-8 T sea salt

3 T your preferred spices (clove, cardamom and star anise are what you see pictured)


I like to make a half gallon jarful of these because they are pretty and therefore make a good hostess gift and because they taste really good and get eaten relatively quickly.  They can be kept on the shelf indefinitely (like a year, at least) or in the fridge for even longer.  You can cut this recipe into halves or thirds with no problem.

  1. Give your lemons a good scrub with your hand or a veggie brush and choose those with unblemished peels.
  2. Put 3 T salt in the bottom of your jar.
  3. Take a lemon and cut as if you are going to quarter it, but stop before the quarters are separated.  Sprinkle sea salt on each plane of exposed lemon flesh.
  4. Close the lemon back up so it looks whole.
  5. Repeat this process with 14 other lemons.
  6. When you have a few cut and salt packed, place them in the jar, and push down with a large wooden spoon, so that the lemons get a little crushed and expel a lot of juice.
  7. Sprinkle salt and a pinch of each spice or seasoning you are using on top of the lemon layer.
  8. Repeat this layering process until all of your 15 lemons are in the jar, make sure they are packed as tightly as you can get them, and that the juice is covering as many lemons as possible.  Compress until you can compress no more.
  9. If the lemons aren’t submerged in juice, thoroughly squeeze the remaining lemons and pour the juice into the jar, until the lemons are covered.
  10. Put on the lid and give her a good shake.  Press the lemons back under the surface of the liquid.  Store at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
  11. Come back for a shake and submerge every day or so until about a month has passed.
  12. Your lemon peels will be slightly translucent and smooth, the liquid will be cloudy.
  13. Take out a lemon or section as needed and separate the peel from the pulp.  They come apart easily with a little prodding.  If using the peel, dice or mince, and remember, this is both salty and very flavorful.  A little goes a long way!
  14. Make a salad, some pasta, some bread or anything that can be topped and enjoy!