Preserved lemons make for a wonderfully convenient condiment and seasoning for meats, seafood and vegetables. Their salty, tart, and floral citrus notes and earthy spices add complexity to almost anything. They're ridiculously easy to make and keep for months, which is why they're a staple in my kitchen.
As far as citrus is concerned, Meyer Lemons are at the top of my list of favorites. Unfortunately, due to a short shelf-life and thin, easily-damaged skin, it's rare to find them outside areas where they're grown. Recently, the availability of these plump, golden beauties has broadened, showing up in supermarkets and Trader Joe's occasionally. Meyer lemons always add something extra, so be sure to pick some up when you happen upon some.
When I'm lucky enough to find them, after I have my fair share Meyer lemon on pasta, spread on toast and in desserts, I like to preserve my remaining lemons so I can make their fragrant, floral aroma linger in my pantry for just a little bit longer.
Traditionally the lemons have an "X" cut into them two thirds of the way down, and are stuffed with salt, before being allowed to pickle in their own juices. This fermentation process takes about a month for the the lemons to become tender, and even longer for the flavor to fully mature. To speed things up, I like to slice the lemons into ¼" thick slices, which not only helps extract the juices, it speeds up the pickling process.
Once preserved, the lemons are tender, with a perfect balance between tart and salty. You lose some of the brighter lemon flavors, but these are supplanted by deep earthy notes that add a wonderful flavor to everything from stews to salads.
- 4 Meyer Lemons
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 2 chili peppers
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves whole
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- Thoroughly scrub the lemons with warm water to remove any residue. Slice the ends off the lemon, then slice them crosswise into ¼" thick circles.
- Put the lemons in a glass bowl and add the salt, chili peppers, cinnamon stick, cloves, coriander seeds, and black peppercorns. Toss to combine, then use the palm of your hand to press down on the lemons, to extract some juice.
- Pack the lemons into a glass jar and cover with the juice. If you're not using Meyer lemons, you may need to add extra lemon juice to cover the lemons.
- Cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap, then use a rubber band to hold the wrap in place. Do not use a sealed lid as the lemons will release gases as they ferment
- Leave the lemons in a cool dark place to ferment. You can use them after a week, but it's best to let them ferment for a couple weeks. Once they're at a place you're happy with, you can slow the fermentation by putting them in the fridge.