Good food: Preserved Lemons

DSC_5000-4PIN ITWe often walk through the neighbourhoods at this time of the year and see those big beautiful lemon trees laden with juicy fruit. Lemon trees take me back to my childhood. We had one in our backyard next to the cubby house growing up, and spring time was the perfect time to pick lemons, suck on the sour flesh, make them into lemonade or use them as ammunition in backyard wars against the neighbourhood kids.

I remember spending summertime laying on top of the cubby house roof, a beautiful little wooden structure my dad built us, with slices of lemon dipped in sugar and books and jars full of tadpoles who were busily growing legs… Lemons always remind me of those times, of that house, of those years of childhood before I started growing up and our family changed so much. I sometimes wonder what memories Bo will hold on to, what sensory things will become her own memory triggers for the different times in her life, what smells or tastes will bring her back to this time when she is a grown woman, perhaps navigating the course of motherhood herself.

Maybe hers will be lemons too.

We can’t choose our memories, and we can’t always preserve them…

But lemons… lemons we can.

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Ingredients (makes 4-6 jars)

4 cups quality rock salt
1/4 cup peppercorns
1/4 cup fennel seed
1/4 cup coriander seed
bay leaves
2-4kg organically grown lemons


Half fill your sink with cool, fresh water and float the lemons, gently scrubbing the skin with a soft brush to remove any dirt and open the pores. When each lemon is clean pop it into the other sink (or pot if you dont have a double sink) filled with clean water. Leave for a few hours or even a day or two if you have the time.

In a big bowl mix your salt mixture.

Ensure all of your jars are nice and clean and if possible use plastic or glass flip top lids to avoid potential corrosion on metal lids (though I used some metal and it hasn’t been a problem as yet).

Preparing the lemons depends a lot on the size of the lemons you’ve got. If you’re in australia it’s quite likely you will have giant lemons like what we have here in the South West. They are massive and delicious but really dont work to preserve whole. If your lemons are small enough, cut into quarters without cutting through the end of the flesh to create a pocket, if they are large, slice them into 1/4 or 1/8ths (with the ends removed).

Pack the lemon pocket with the salt mixture (or if you have cut it up in quarters roll in the salt mixture) and then pack into jars, firmly pushing into the jars to release as much of the juice as possible. The salt and the juice ferments the lemons and preserves them so the more juice you can release the better the end result will be. Continue to do this until your jar is full, add a little extra salt mixture to the top of each jar and slide a couple of bay leaves down the sides.

You should have lemon juice sitting just above the lemons on the top before you seal them. If not, you should add a little freshly squeezed juice so that the lemons sit under the liquid level… firmly close the jar and place in a cool dark place for about 4 weeks, checking from time to time that the fruit remains under the liquid.

After 4 weeks pop the jars in the back of the fridge and enjoy by eating the delicious preserved rinds whenever you fancy.

With lemon trees all around australia laden with fruit, it’s a good time to preserve that beautiful flavour for next year, or you know, next month… we are eating ours already and they are delicious!

With strong moroccan tones, preserved lemons lend themselves beautifully to tagines, as an accompaniment to stirfries and curries, with seafood or on top of lentil salads.

They also make for a pretty lovely thoughtful little christmas gift too. x

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  • December 1, 2014 - 4:03 pm

    Andrea Hamann - Something tells me, reading your last few posts, that you would love Norfolk Island. Since moving here, I have eaten more fresh, local seasonal food, with less food miles, than I have since I was a kid with parents with a giant vegie patch. Most of our vegies come from accross the road at the giant vegie patch I volunteer in. Eggs and fresh fish come from friends, and we are currently talking about going thirds in a cow with friends and adjisting it in a friends paddock. I knew there was a reason I saved up for a big mixer with a mincer attachment. We are blissfully low tech. There is no 4g network here, so no smart phones and I don’t even have credit on my mobile. I have a friend with a lemon tree…and next year, I hope to be preserving some lemons too !!ReplyCancel

    • December 2, 2014 - 12:13 pm

      Sash - That sounds like an aboslute dream Andrea! Good on you for making such an important move!:)ReplyCancel

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