Preserved lemons make for a wonderfully convenient condiment and seasoning for meats, seafood and vegetables. 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 are grown; and yet there they were, nestled between the apples and oranges, a bin full of plump golden Meyer Lemons.
Labelled “local lemons” and without the outrageous price tag I’ve often seen supermarkets try and charge, it took every ounce of self-restraint to keep myself from filling my cart with the sweet, fragrant citrus. Still, I stocked up feeling like this was some kind of fluke. Maybe the stocker mislabeled them, or perhaps the buyer bought a cheap batch not knowing what they were.
As suspected, they were no longer there upon my next visit, so after I had my fair share Meyer Lemon on on pasta, spread on toast and in desserts, I decided to preserve my remaining lemons so I could 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 1/4″ 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.
- Thoroughly scrub the lemons with warm water to remove any residue. Slice the ends off the lemon, then slice them crosswise into 1/4" 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.