My first preserved lemons! It’s a real landmark for me as I have been meaning to make them for AGES. They’re one of those wonderful cultured foods (double-meaning alert) which add an exotic, North African, adventurous element and expand your culinary horizons (unless your from somewhere where they’re usual when
swedes or baked beans probably seem super-exciting!). Or not…
Fermenting your own foods is a truly satisfying thing to do. It’s quick and easy and yet lasting. Apparently they keep for a year in the fridge, if not longer. It’s so positive. It’s looking after your future self, which is always a good thing to do. It’s thrifty too and just one of those things that make you feel like a genuine human, instead of just someone who moves things around, says things over and over again that no-one takes any notice of, provides, consumes, and tries to keep up general standards and fails, caught on a mind-bending time-loop that appears to be linear but isn’t quite convincing, which is so often how life can make you feel. Life is a truly odd and surreal experience. I believe in this.
Preserved lemons are at least real(ly sour), healthy and incredibly delicious.
make yourself a jar of preserved lemons and you’ll feel like you’ve made it…
I need to, we all need to eat more fermented foods. 70% of our immune system is in our gut, and poor gut health is apparently tied to autoimmune disorders, and as I have so many, and am building rather an alarming collection, I need to do everything I can to improve my gut health. I had thought, after researching, that eating lots of prebiotic foods was enough, and that probiotics were mostly killed off in the stomach, but I realise (or rather have re-energised my realisation) that probiotics are very important too, and how people around the world keep well. Every culture has a traditional focus on fermented food, but in the West, well, not the rest of Europe, who have a strong tradition of fermented foods, but in the UK (and I think America, I’m not sure about New Zealand and Australia but I expect the trend is there also to neglect probiotic foods, please do correct me if I am wrong), we have mostly forgotten this, relying on apparently pretty ineffective pasteurised yogurt as a probiotic, and also taking medicines that kill off good gut flora and cause an over-population of bad gut flora, SIBO, and this may well have a strong connection with the rise in poor health. It’s quite blatant really when you look into it. And scary.
I realise I have neglected my gut health. I also had to take antibiotics last year for the first time in a long time. As a coeliac my gut health is very vulnerable, and I keep developing autoimmune conditions, which is worrying. Now, no matter what the situation, there is no point panicking about the past, only the present and the future matter, that’s where you should direct your positive energy. And so I am launching into lacto-fermentation mode. I already make and love sauerkraut, which I am experimenting combining with other vegetables, and now to my utter delight I have a jar of pickled lemons that I look at several times a day and feel so pleased by.
I am a lemon fanatic, tis true.
These lemons had the most pips of any I have ever known, and I’ve known a lot of lemons, I’ve been noticing for a while that there’s been a lot of pippage, but these ones had like 50 a lemon! That’s taking it a bit far in my opinion lemon people what’s going on!?! I thought I’d got most out but the jar is full of them. Still, they’ll be easy enough to dodge so I don’t think it matters much. Dan was horrified as lemon pips are his nemesis. Freakily he always gets the pip if one sneaks into the food, always. Must be karmic. Sorry Dan if it’s your fate to munch on a lemon pip I’m just a spoke in the wheel… I would like to make clear that I have NEVER IN MY LIFE done anything like that on purpose even though the evidence is stacking up against me it is purely circumstantial. It’s weird.
I looked into how to make preserved lemons and found various recipes such as this, this and this, and have taken my method from what they say to do, which is basically to either slice or, the traditional method, cut them into quarters without going through the base as pictured, pack them with (a frankly upsetting amount of) salt, fruit needs more salt than vegetables to preserve, and to do what you would usually do in fermentation, i.e. release the juices of the thing you’re fermenting so that it covers the thing you are fermenting. With fermented lemons you keep them at room temperature, with the lid secured, for a few weeks until ready (opening the lid to release gas build up daily whilst fermenting) and then either keep at room temperature to mature the flavour, or transfer to the fridge or other cold storage where it matures much more slowly.
Lemons are so lovely to work with, they’re beautifully coloured, their scent is so uplifting, and it feels good to be preparing them so their skin and pith will be eaten too, as it is so good for you, and so often discarded. I got a real kick out of thinking I was doing something traditional too, I really liked that.
Rub the salt into the lemons, press them into the jar and pummel them, a few at a time then adding more (I used a pestle). The juice pours out and quickly the jar is filled with lemons and juice.
Push the fruit down and seal the lid, and return regularly to push the fruit down so it is submerged, you can top with a little water if this isn’t happening, which I did to mine shortly after this photo, but they do rise to the top. However mine fermented very well so I don’t think this is a major issue here, maybe because of all the salt.
The result is truly delicious, far less salty than I thought it’d be, though it is of course salty, it’s tender and just so good to be eating the whole lemon with all that goodness in the skin. I’ve read you’re supposed to discard the flesh, and other people say to discard the pith, which has bitterness, I suppose it depends on what you are cooking, but it was all so good to eat, and bitterness is often a sign of goodness in such edibles. Wash them to reduce the salt, but as you only need a little in a meal, I wouldn’t get alarmed about the high salt content. Salt and lemons go together so wonderfully, I think they’re my favourite flavour combination, my mind just does a somersault every time I love it. Preserved lemon is great in richly flavoured stews such as bean and squash; in a salad; with hummus; with a meal like garlic quinoa, squash and toasted almonds… I have a recipe coming up for the most delicious cream of cauliflower and lemon soup, and am really looking forward to cooking with it in the future, it’s such a wonderful addition to my world. (Even if this is all a matrix-esque fantasy and I’m a character playing out a role, I think it’s good that that role is one where I nurture and respect myself, respect my food and learn important skills like fermentation 🙂 )
- 1kg unwaxed organic lemons (about 7)
- 1/4 cup of good sea salt, or Himalayan salt
Slice the top off the lemons, quarter without cutting through (not sure why this is but it is a method I have seen and it's fun to do something that feels traditional, however I see no reason why it is wrong to cut the top and expose the flesh, which is what is said, as you can also ferment them in slices very well too, so I say just go for it!). Stuff salt inside and rub outside the lemons, cram one or two at a time into the jar and pummel until they release their juice and are submerged, filling the jar to the top, and pummeling as you go. Secure jar top. Ferment at room temperature for 2-3 weeks. Keeps for a year or more in the fridge, or you can keep at room temperature which matures the flavour. They are so salty there isn't a risk of them going bad as far as I can tell.
This recipe does make a lot, you could make less, especially if fridge room is tight, or make the batch and split it, a jar of fermented lemons is a lovely and interesting gift.
Check out my fermenting page for further resources on lacto-fermentation.
I’ve been listening to… this