I regularly use preserved lemon, adding it to salads, soups, dressings, and seasoning because of its exquisite umami flavor. The fermentation process transforms the lemon peel’s bitterness into a unique taste that will amaze you. Preserved lemon is also high in probiotics and contains liver detoxing essential oils in the peel. Use the rind and discard the pulp. It is a staple condiment in North Africa and is available at any Middle Eastern grocery.
It never stops to amaze me what fermentation can do to food. After all, let’s not forget that cheese, wine, dosa and miso are all fermented foods as well. The preserved lemon is one of my personal favorites. I still remember being given a concoction made from Chinese “sour limes” when not feeling under the weather Sour limes; brown, shriveled and very sour, chopped to pieces in hot water. These little gems were tangy, lemony, salty but not like their cousins, the fresh limes. The fermentation process, combined with the salt, changes the limes so much so that they taste like nothing you have ever tried.
My love for lemons and now fermented lemons, or preserved lemons as they are called in the Middle East, continues. Let me give you a few reasons why you could be enthusiastic as well:
- they are yet another potent fermented food that provides plenty of beneficial bacteria
- the peel contains d-limonene which detoxifies the liver and helps get rid of “dirty” estrogens
- the peel is alkalizing for the body
- they are simply yummy and unique in taste when cooked – try the Moroccan Chicken Tajin
- they last forever when kept in the fridge.
And this is how you make them.
- 6 organic lemons; 4 to ferment and 2 to get juice from
- 6 tablespoons of sea salt, or more
- 2 cinnamon sticks, optional
- 4 cloves, optional
- Sanitize the mason jar by washing it with soap and hot water. Do not use antibacterial soap.
- Wash the lemons with boiling water. Cut four of them lengthwise to quarter, but do not cut all the way so the lemon quarters remain connected at the base.
- Place 1 tablespoon sea salt at the bottom of the jar. Stuff one quartered lemon into the bottom of the jar, with the base of the lemon down. Pack it in tightly and press down to release the juice. Top with 1 tablespoon salt and the spices. Repeat with the other three quartered lemons. Add the remaining salt to the top.
- Juice the remaining four lemons and pour the juice into the jar. The lemons should be fully submerged. If they aren’t completely covered, place a small glass container in the mason jar to press the lemons down under the liquid, or add more lemon juice. Do not use a metal or plastic container.
- Tighten the lid of the jar and place it in a warm place away from direct sunlight.
- Turn the jar upside down every few days.
- Ferment for 30 to 60 days and check for readiness. The lemon rind should be very soft and no longer taste bitter.
- Transfer to the refrigerator. It will keep for years (I'm not exaggerating) but you will most likely finish them way before that!
In my cookbook, Cooking for Hormone Balance, there is also an easy and versatile recipe for the Olive and Preserved Lemon Tapenade and the Preserved Lemon Mayo.