Preserved lemons are the quintessential condiment of Moroccan cooking. They impart their distinctive flavour on a variety of dishes – from lamb and vegetable tagines to salads and savoury pastries. There is quite simply not substitute for this condiment and fresh lemon or lime juice cannot duplicate the preserve unique pickled taste and special silken texture.
Moroccan cooks have a preference for fragrant-skinned limoon ed daq (bergamot lemons) and tangerine-sized boussera (navel lemons) to make preserved lemons. However, firm Eurekas or thin-skinned Meyer lemons would work well for making an intensely-flavoured preserve.
You can buy Moroccan preserved lemons in specialty food stores or you can make your own. It is easy to prepare and will come in handy for any unused portion of lemon in the kitchen – simply toss into the jar and let it marinate with the others!
Preserved Lemons: Preserved Lemons Recipe
Makes 1 quart
12 unblemished, well-scrubbed lemons
Freshly-squeezed lemon juice if needed
Dry the lemons and cut a thin dime-sized piece from both ends of each lemon. Set a lemon on one end and make a vertical cut three quarters of the way through. Turn the lemon upside down and make a similar cut, three quarters of the way through, at a 90 degrees angle to the first cut. Fill each cut with as much salt as it can hold. Place the lemon carefully at the bottom of sterilised 1 quart wide-mouthed jar. Proceed in this manner with the remaining lemons, compressing as many into the jar until no space is left and the lemon juice rises to the top. Seal and leave at room temperature.
In the following day, the rinds will have softened and you will have space for additional salted lemons. Continue adding and pressing salted lemons over the next few days, making sure that the juice covers them – this prevents mold from forming. If the fruits are not covered, use freshly-squeezed lemon juice – not chemically produced lemon juice or water.
Seal the jar and store in a cool place on the kitchen counter and let the lemons mature, shaking periodically to distribute the salt and juice. The lemons are ready to use after 3 to 4 weeks when the rinds are tender and can easily be pierced with a fork. At this point, you can refrigerate the lemons to keep the bright yellow colour and silken texture.
To use, rinse the lemons under running water, removing and discarding the pulp if desired. Refrigerate after use. Preserved lemons should keep for up to six months in the refrigerator.