Have you ever wondered what the secret ingredient is to so many Middle Eastern dishes? Well the cat’s out of the bag – it’s lemon – and not just any lemon but Preserved Lemon. Preserved lemons (preferably Meyer or Eureka with their thicker skins) rest in a heavily salted brine for at least a month which completely changes their character. They still have a tart lemony flavor but the peel has lost it’s bitterness and has become soft and salty/sweet. There is really nothing to compare it to. It has it’s own unique flavor. Preserved lemon is the key ingredient in many Moroccan, Cambodian and Northern African dishes and is often combined with olives, cumin, ginger, turmeric and saffron to make an incredible base for almost any vegetable or protein. It is also called lemon pickle, country lemon or leems depending on where you are from.
What do you do with Preserved Lemon? I remove the seeds and puree the whole lemon (peel and all) in a food processor to put in sauces and stews. For a less intense flavor, you can cut them into quarters or slices and add them to dishes or chop just the rinds into small pieces. The salty, lemony brine and lemon pulp is wonderful to add to sauces or salad dressings, so none of it goes to waste.
Preserved Lemons are very easy to make but you have to think ahead since they have to sit in their brine for a month or so. I have included instructions for making preserved lemons. They make a very unusual gift. Just add a label and some ribbon. Check out my Garden to Pantry Page” for more info on labels. I have also included a link to Moroccan Recipes which has many recipes that use preserved lemons so maybe it will get your creative juices going. I tried the ‘Moroccan Style Cauliflower” from this list and loved it so decided to include that recipe on this post as well.
Preserved Meyer Lemons
What you need:
Quart sized bell jar w/ lid
6-7 Meyer lemons (or Eureka)
1/2 Cup of Kosher salt
• Sterilize jars In hot water bath or in the dishwasher. Air dry.
• Wash and dry lemons.
• Cut a lemon in half horizontally without cutting all the way through the skin (about 3/4 of the way through). Then cut vertically without cutting all the way through. You should still have a lemon in one piece with a deep criss-cross cut.
• Fill the inside of the lemon with as much salt as you can fit. This part is messy so I lay the lemon in a small bowl and pour the salt into the cut. Then I pour back any salt that has fallen into the bowl
• Place the lemon in the bell jar, salt side up.
• Repeat with the rest of the lemons, pressing as many as will fit into the jar and allowing the lemons to be covered by lemon juice. If your lemons don’t make enough juice to cover, wait a few days and trying pressing down on the lemons again. Sometimes you can even fit another lemon in the jar and then muscle the lid on.
• Cover with the lid and let sit at room temperature for four to six weeks. It will take the salt a few days to dissolve, so give it a gentle shake once a day until the brine is clear.
• To use the preserved lemons, you can use the either rind or the whole lemon (which has more flavor). Just remove the seeds, finely dice, or puree in a blender, and put in stews, sauces and salad dressings.
• Once the jar has been opened, it should be stored in the refrigerator.
Moroccan Style Cauliflower
• 1 large head of cauliflower
• 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
• 1 teaspoon ginger
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
• black or cayenne pepper, to taste
• 1 onion, sliced or coarsely chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
• 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
• 1 preserved lemon, quartered
• 1 handful red or violet olives
• 1/2 cup water
• 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Break the cauliflower into small florets; wash and drain. Mix the cauliflower with the spices and set aside.
In a wide, deep skillet or Dutch oven, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat for just a few minutes. Add the cauliflower, preserved lemon, olives and water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring gently once or twice, until the cauliflower is just tender. Continue cooking, uncovered, to reduce the liquids to oil only.
Sprinkle the fresh cilantro over the cauliflower and serve.
Click on the following link for more recipes that use preserved lemon: Moroccan Recipes