Like most things, there a few methods to preserve lemons. These are two of the methods I use, plus I have included the Greek method for you to try as well. See which one you prefer. I tend to use the Moroccan method more these days.
Cut lemons into quarters. Place two tablespoons of rock salt into the bottom of a clean and sterilised jar. Pack lemons down into jar, flesh side down, 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. To keep the lemons submerged and seal well – see the hints below. Set aside, refrigerate if in a humid, hot climate, for at least 2 months and then use as needed.
Preserved Lemons Moroccan style
This is the Moroccan method of preserving lemons. Cut the lemons into quarters, but not right through, just to the base of the lemon, so the quarters are still all attached together. Open the segments out and pack rock salt into the lemon. Place two tablespoons of rock salt into the bottom of a clean and sterilised jar. Pack lemons down into jar, and continue adding rock salt into the segments, push down hard to release the juices, layering with tablespoons of salt between the lemon layers as well. Do not add extra juice or water; the salt will draw out the moisture by osmosis. Set aside, refrigerate if in a humid, hot climate, for at least 2 months and then use as needed.
Hints for both these methods
It is important to keep the lemons either submerged under the juice and water, or under the rock salt topping. If the lemons are exposed to the air, they will go mouldy. In Queensland, I keep them in the fridge. They should keep up to 6 months.
It is a good idea, to make a large jar, and then decant a number of lemons from the large jar into smaller jars for your use or to give 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 may need to be weighted down gently. I make a cartouche and also crumple some glad bake and place over the lemons and brine solution; then place on top a small,l clean and sterilised glass jar to weigh down the lemons and then clip on the jar lid – that keeps the lemons submerged. Set aside, refrigerate if in a humid, hot climate, for at least 2 months and then use as needed.
To use the preserved lemons
The lemon zest, only, is used, and the salty 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 into fine juliennes, or according to the recipe you are using.
The most common uses are for a chicken tagine with lemons, tagines in general, and couscous. However, preserved lemons are excellent in many different dishes – such as with fish, in a stuffing for roast chicken and in salads.
The Greeks use a different method again for their preserved lemons.
Preserved lemons Greek style
These lemons are quintessentially Greek with their flavouring of rigani, Greek oregano. Use them to flavour roasts, finely chopped in stuffings or salads, or to accompany fish.
6 lemons, washed
185g coarse sea salt
6 sprigs dried Greek oregano, rigani
8 fresh or dried bay leaves
125ml extra virgin olive oil
Soak lemons, weighted with a saucer, in a bowl of cold water for 2 days, changing the water 4 times a day, then drain. Cut lemons into 8mm-thick slices, remove seeds and layer in a large plastic container, sprinkling with salt as you go. Refrigerate, covered, for 1 day.
The next day, pack lemon slices into glass jars with oregano and bay leaves, pour in the juices that have accumulated, then enough olive oil to cover lemons. Seal jars and refrigerate for 2 weeks before using.