When life gives you lemons

Preserve them!


Here’s how to go about doing that.

  1. Save and thoroughly clean some jars and their lids.
    Your average lemon needs approximately 14 cm3 of preservation space (that’s 140 ml). In the Netherlands, the standard large jars for veggies and beans and such are 650 ml jars. (Hey! that’s almost 5 lemons!)
  2. Obtain a number of lemons that would nicely fit your jars.
  3. For each lemon (or per 140 ml), you need approximately 25 grammes of salt (about 1.5 tablespoon or 4.5 teaspoons)
  4. For each jar, you need a handful of black pepper corns, cloves, one cinnamon stick and one or two bay leaves.
    I actually doubt it does an awful lot for the taste, but it makes it look nicer, I think.
  5. Toss the lemons in some moderately hot water and thoroughly brush and rinse them.
    Most lemons have a layer of wax on them, which is not bad for your health, but we want to preserve lemons, not wax.
  6. Get a big cutting board and a nice and a good and sharp knife (I love my Kyocera ceramic Santoku knife).
  7. Crack your knuckles (optional).
  8. Cut the top and the bottom off each lemon and cut it into 8 pieces, like this:
  9. Cut the white middle part away. This is for three reasons:
    – The white stuff isn’t tasty and doesn’t add to the whole Preserved Lemon Experience®
    – Same goes for the pips, and if you cut the middle part away like this, you can get rid of most of the pips (don’t bother to try to get them all)
    – You need the juice to come out of the pulp, and if you cut them like that, you neatly cut open all the segments, which helps a lot
  10. Put some salt on the bottom of your jar and make a layer of your doubly quartered lemon bits. If you are not confident about just tossing salt in, just weigh and set aside the right amount of salt for your current jar, and estimate a bit of an equal distribution from that. It will all mix in the end, but it’s just nicer to start with a bit of a nice distribution.
  11. Also toss in a few cloves and peppercorns. For decorative purposes, try to aim for the sides, so you can see them from the outside. Add a layer of salt.
  12. Repeat this step for a third of the lemon bits designated for your current jar. Then decoratively arrange the bay leaves and the cinnamon stick to the sides of the jar so that they show nicely on the outside.
  13. Repeat the layering for another third of the lemon bits designated for your current jar.
  14. Now comes the Serious Squeezing®, part one.
    What I do is find some kind of rather solid object that fits through the neck of your jar, put it in a plastic bag, and lean your entire weight on it when shoving it into the jar, squeezing your lemon bits. I used a bottle of soy sauce.
    At this point, you should start to realise that it might indeed be possible to squeeze the number of lemon bits in the jar that I said would fit in there. 😉
    Note, if you postpone this part to the end, you will squeeze a lot of precious lemon juice out of your jar. So do it now, not later!
  15. Continue with the rest of your lemons, cloves, pepper corns and salt until you fill the jar to the very rim. The Serious Squeezing® in this part is all done with your fingers to avoid overspill of the precious juice.
  16. This step is optional, it’s just because I have little patience. I heat the jar in the microwave for about 15 seconds per lemon. This should make the jar feel hot to the touch without things actually boiling. Salt just dissolves in hot fluid better than in cold and I like it that it sort of sucks vaccuum if you put the lid on when it is hot.
  17. Put the lid on firmly.
  18. For the next couple of days, turn the pot around every now and then, so that the salt gets the chance to dissolve well and the brine spreads everywhere.
  19. Put the jar away for TWO MONTHS, or at least 6 weeks.
  20. Enjoy your preserved lemons!
    They will keep a long time. Theoretically, that is. They taste so good you will need to make a new batch soon, but you get my drift.

You ask how to enjoy your preserved lemons!

Well, open the jar and just smell them, for one! Isn’t that a great zesty smell?

But you can use them in actual food, too :D. Generally recipes say to toss the pulp and just rinse the salt off the zest and use that. I find that if you just use the pulp in say, a chicken curry, you don’t need to use extra salt and it isn’t so wasteful. Great idea akshly: just take a lemon bit, cut it up finely and toss it in your curry. Or your chili con carne. Or your pasta bolognese. You can use the pulp to marinate meats and fish in, makes it so lovely zesty.

Some official recipes:

And I am sure you’re very adept at googling more recipes, yourself 😉

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One thought on “When life gives you lemons

  1. I always liked the thought….When life gives you melons, chances are that you have dyslexia!

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