Preserved lemon or lemon pickle is a condiment that is common in Indian Cuisine, North African cuisine, and especially Moroccan cuisine.
It is also known as “country lemon” and leems. Diced, quartered, halved, or whole lemons are pickled in a brine of water, lemon juice, and salt; occasionally spices are included as well. The pickle is allowed to ferment at room temperature for weeks or months before it is used. The pulp of the preserved lemon can be used in stews and sauces, but it is the peel (zest and pith together) that is most valued. The flavour is mildly tart but intensely lemony.
Usage of Preserved Lemons
Pieces of pickled lemon may be washed before using to remove any surface salt, or blanched to remove more of the salt and bring out the natural mild sweetness. They may then be sliced, chopped, or minced as needed for the texture of the dish. The rind may be used with or without the pulp.
Preserved lemon is the key ingredient in many Moroccan dishes such as tagines. In Cambodian cuisine, it is used in dishes such as Nam Ngau, a chicken soup with whole preserved lemon. They are often combined in various ways with olives, artichokes, seafood, veal, chicken, and rice. Lemon Pickle is a standard accompaniment to curd rice, which is often the last course in South Indian Cuisine.
The pickled pulp and liquid can be used in Bloody Marys and other beverages where lemon and salt are used. The flavour also combines well with horseradish, as in American-style cocktail sauce.
Many Moroccan and Middle Eastern recipes call for preserved lemons, lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juices. It’s quite easy to do, though takes at least three weeks before the lemons are ready to use.
- 8-10 Meyer lemons, scrubbed very clean
- ½ cup kosher salt, more if needed
- extra fresh squeezed lemon juice, if needed
- sterilised jar, for storage
- Place 2 tablespoons of salt in the bottom of a sterilised jar.
- One by one, prepare the lemons in the following way. Cut off any protruding stems from the lemons, and cut ½ cm off the tip of each lemon. Cut the lemons as if you were going to cut them in half lengthwise, starting from the tip, but do not cut all the way. Keep the lemon attached at the base. Make another cut in a similar manner, so now the lemon is quartered, but again, attached at the base.
- Pry the lemons open and generously sprinkle salt all over the insides and outsides of the lemons.
- Pack the lemons in the jar, squishing them down so that juice is extracted and the lemon juice rises to the top of the jar. Fill up the jar with lemons, make sure the top is covered with lemon juice. Add more fresh squeezed lemon juice if necessary. Top with a couple tablespoons of salt.
- Seal the jar and let sit at room temperature for a couple days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally. Put in refrigerator and let sit, again turning upside down occasionally, for at least 3 weeks, until lemon rinds soften.
- To use, remove a lemon from the jar and rinse thoroughly in water to remove salt. Discard seeds before using. Discard the pulp before using, if desired.
- Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.