Cut lemons into quarters. Some recipes call for the lemons to be cut into quarters, but not right through. In this case, open them out and pack rock salt into the lemon. I now use the shells of lemons that have been juiced.
Place two tablespoons of rock salt into the bottom of a clean and sterilised jar. Pack lemons down into jar, releasing any juices, layering with tablespoons of salt between the lemon layers. Add 2 cinnamon sticks, 6 cloves of garlic, handful of peppercorns, 12 cloves, 4 bay leaves. You may also add some fresh oregano sprigs. The jar should be about ¾ full, add half a cup of lemon juice and fill the jar with boiling water
It is important to keep the lemons submerged. If the lemons are exposed to the air, they will go mouldy. I also keep mine in the fridge, as it is hot here. They should keep up to 12 months. Make a large jar, and then decant a number of lemons from the large jar into smaller jars for use or as presents. This will also ensure a longer life for the lemons in the large jar as you are not disturbing them as frequently and exposing them to the air.
To keep the lemons submerged they need to be weighted down gently. I make a cartouche and also crumple some glad bake and place them over the lemons and brine solution and then place on top a small clean and sterilised glass jar to weigh down the lemons and then clip on the jar lid – that keeps the lemons submerged. Refrigerate for at least 2 months and then use as needed.
To use the preserved lemons
The lemon zest only is used in cooking, the lemon flesh is discarded.
Take the required pieces of lemon and wash well to remove the salt. The zest, without any white pith, is then cut according to the recipe it serves.
The most famous use is for a chicken tagine with lemons, but preserved lemons are also excellent in many different dishes – such as with fish, good in a stuffing for roast chicken, in salads and of course in couscous.