I’ve been moody since last night thanks to the season 7 premiere of “The Walking Dead.” So it’s somewhat fitting that I made preserved lemons today. I love making Moroccan food, but whenever a recipe calls for “preserved lemons,” I usually substitute it with fresh lemons instead. However, I’ve been doing some reading about how there really isn’t a substitute for preserved lemons, and you’re doing a great disservice to a recipe by either using fresh lemons or skipping it altogether.
Since I was curious about how much of a difference preserved lemons make in flavoring and thought pickling jars filled with lemons might look attractive on our kitchen shelves, I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve never made preserved lemons, but the recipes I’ve found online made it seem simple enough, and they seem versatile when it comes to adding herbs and spices.I decided to use a bay leaf, fennel seeds, peppercorns, and a small stick of cinnamon. And of course, preserved lemons, essentially being pickled or brined lemons, require A LOT of salt. Note: Initially, I started out wanting to use pink Himalayan, but I was worried that the pink might make for bizarre aesthetics so I switched it out for regular sea salt for my first attempt.You might want to make sure you’re papercut-free; cleaning up the lemon juice and salt from the counters could go from being a figurative pain to literal pain if you’re not.The most difficult part of making preserved lemons is the waiting. With the chill returning to Philly, I’ve been wanting to make Moroccan chicken in the crock-pot, but I’m going to have to wait a month before the lemons will be ready. I’ll have a follow-up post when they’re ready.
- 1 pint pickling jar
- 3-4 small lemons (preferably Meyer or regular organic lemons since the peels will be eaten)
- sea salt
- fennel seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- Make sure the pickling jar has been sterilized.
- Add 1 tsp. of salt to the bottom of the jar.
- Slice off the pointed ends of the lemons.
- Partially cut the lemons into quarters, leaving the bases intact.
- Stuff the inside of the lemons with 1 tsp. of salt, also rubbing some on the outside.
- Pack the lemons into the jar, cut side down, adding 1 tsp. of salt in between lemons. Squeeze the lemons a bit while packing the jar to release some of the juices.
- Sprinkle in fennel seeds, peppercorns.
- Add cinnamon stick and bay leaf.
- Seal the jar and let sit on the counter for 3-4 days, rotating and shaking the jar 3xs a day.
- Place in refrigerator to finish pickling process (4 weeks).
* I say “I’m never watching ‘The Walking Dead’ again!” on a weekly basis, but I’ve never been very good at kicking bad habits.