Lemons are present in some form in practically every Arabic meal. The Moroccans take it a step further by using preserved lemons in their cooking, which give a refreshing tangy flavor to many of their dishes.
Imagine a very intense, incredibly flavorful lemon zest, but silky and fragrant. Preserved lemons retain all of their lemony-ness even when slow cooked in a tagine. Essential in a Moroccan kitchen, they are used in salads and dressings, in lamb and vegetable tagines, and as a garnish. Preserved lemons are the star ingredient of the well-known Moroccan dish Chicken Tagine with Lemons and Olives.
Not to be confused with dried lemons (which are darkened and hard), preserved lemons keep their vibrant yellow color. Basically they are lemons pickled in salt. Normally cooks use the peel alone and discard the pulp, but you can use the pulp, too, if desired.
The unique texture and flavor of preserved lemons cannot be substituted with fresh lemon. Don’t even try. However, you can easily prepare preserved lemons at home. But here’s the catch: they require at least a month to mature before they’re ready to use. So, if you’d like to use them in your cooking, you’ll need to plan ahead. Way ahead.
Preserved Lemons – What you’ll need
1 large sterilized jar with tight-fitting lid
10 lemons (unwaxed, preferably organic) or as many that will squeeze into your jar
10 Tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt, (Not iodized table salt), 1 T for each lemon
Fresh lemon juice, as needed
1. Wash, scrub, and dry lemons. For each lemon: cut the tips off. Standing each lemon vertically, cut the lemon into quarters, but don’t cut all the way through. Leave about a half-inch uncut.
3. Stuff one tablespoon sea salt into each lemon.
4. One by one, stuff the lemons into the jar. The lemons will soften and release their juices, making it possible to pack them in. Pack them down and squeeze in as many as you can.
5. If the jar is fully packed, the juice from the lemons should nearly fill the jar. Add some additional fresh lemon juice if necessary. It’s important that all the lemons are covered with the salted lemon juice. Leave some airspace before sealing the jar.
6. Store in a cool dark place or the refrigerator for at least a month. The longer they are left, the better the flavor. To use, scoop out and discard the pulp. Rinse the lemon peel under water to get rid of the salt. Chop finely, in slivers, or as instructed. Preserved lemons can be used for up to a year.
Question: How do you use preserved lemons in your cooking?