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Spiced Preserved Lemons


Yields 1 quart.

A staple of the Moroccan kitchen, preserved lemons have a soft, silky-smooth texture and a salty, pickled taste. The only hard thing about making them is waiting for them to cure, which takes about four weeks. But they're worth it. I make these in a wide-mouthed glass jar that has a glass lid. This way, it’s easy to pack the lemons into the jar and no metal comes in contact with the lemon juice and salt. Use the preserved lemons in Tomato, Feta & Preserved Lemon Salad, or see the Serving Suggestions, below.

  • 6 small thin-skinned lemons
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 wide-mouthed quart-size Mason jar, sterilized

Wash and scrub 4 of the lemons thoroughly. Cut them lengthwise into quarters from the tip to within 1/2 inch of the stem end, so the quarters stay together at one end. (If you don’t have a widemouthed jar, go ahead and separate the quarters.) Juice the remaining 2 lemons.

Put the cut-up lemons in a large bowl with the salt and toss to coat, packing the salt into the cut edges of the lemon. Re-form them into lemon shape, and pack them tightly into the sterilized jar with any extra salt and the cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaf. Pour in the lemon juice and cover the jar. Store in a cool place for 1 week, tipping the jar once a day to mix in the salt. After a week, put the jar in the refrigerator and keep for 3 more weeks before using. Rinse preserved lemons before using to remove excess salt.

Make Ahead Tips

The lemons will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Serving Suggestions

  • Dice the lemons and mix with a bit of their juices and olive oil for a dressing.
  • Add chopped preserved lemons to braised meats or when making gravy or sauce.
  • Mix finely diced rind into mayonnaise with a little crushed fresh garlic and chopped mint; use as a dip for crudités or serve with fried fish in place of tartar sauce.
  • Stir chopped preserved lemons into guacamole, salsa, relish, chutney, or even tuna salad.
  • Mince the rind and toss with sautéed shrimp or scallops.
  • Mince the rind, mix into softened butter, and use in sandwiches or on grilled fish, steak, veggies, or lobster.
  • Use slices as a garnish for grilled chicken or fish.

Photo: Scott Phillips

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