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Preserved lemons


Preserved Lemons

These are widely used in Moroccan cooking, and essential if your dishes are to taste authentic, but cannot unfortunately be replaced with ordinary lemons or limes.

Moroccan preserved lemons are pickled in brine and have a salty-silky taste, and a texture which is difficult to describe.  The peel loses its bitterness and adds a very distinctive flavour to a wide variety of dishes: in many dishes the skin only is used.

Preserved lemons are strangely addictive; stopping using them is more difficult than you think, once you have tried them in a variety of dishes.

In Morocco the thin skinned (doqq) lemon is widely used, along with the tart bergamot (boussera), but any lemon will be fine.  Preserving your own lemons is not difficult, but it is time consuming.  The recipe below comes from Robert Carrier's A Taste of Morocco, unfortunately now out of print.

Creating your own preserved lemons

16 small ripe lemons, thin skinned if possible
Coarse salt
Lemon juice

  1. Scrub lemons with a stiff brush, then place in a large glass container.  Cover with cold water and allow the lemons to soak for 3-5 days, changing the water daily.
  2. Drain lemons.  Then using the point of a sharp knife, insert knife 6mm (1/4") from the bud end of each lemon and make four incisions lengthways to within 6mm (1/4") of the other end.  Then cut through incisions in each lemon so that the lemons are cut completely through both sides, but still held together at both ends.
  3. Insert 1/4 tsp coarse salt into centre of each lemon, squeezing them open, then arrange lemons in sterilized kilner jars.  Sprinkle lemons in each jar with 1tbsp of coarse salt.  Add strained juice of 1 lemon to each jar and enough boiling water to cover the lemons.
  4. Leave lemons to steep in this mixture for at least 3 weeks before using them.  You'll find the salty, oily pickling juice is honey thick and highly flavoured this can be used in salad dressings and added to tagines.  The lemons will keep in this mixture for up to a year.
  5. To use the preserved lemons, remove lemon from jar, and rinse well under cold running water.  Cut away pulp from each quarter and discard.  Use skin as required in the recipe.  Never touch preserved lemons in the jar with an oily or greasy spoon, as the fat will spoil the pickling mixture.  Don't worry if a white film forms on the preserved lemons in the jar; just rinse off before using.

If you are like me, the above sounds far too much like hard work.  We do sell the thin skinned lemons already done in a jar.

Some recipes from the Little Yellow Cook Book with preserved lemons

Chicken with preserved lemon and green olives  p27

Moroccan roast chicken with preserved lemons and saffron p28

Tagine of lamb with peas, preserved lemon and olives  p20

Hanane's beans  p35

Enjoy the recipe?
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