Farm To Table | Sauces / Dips / Dressings

Fermented Lemons (Preserved Lemons)

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Fermented lemons, otherwise known as preserved lemons are an age old secret of top chefs around the world. It’s incredibly easy.

Quart jar with fermented lemons on black background.Pin
Fermented Lemons

With just 2 ingredients and a bit of time, this secret weapon of the best chefs can also be in your pantry to use for so many recipes.

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It takes less than 10 minutes too so you can do it anytime.

What are preserved lemons?

Preserved lemons, or more accurately, lacto fermented lemons are lemons that are aged and preserved in salt and their own juices. They are basically pickled, although they can be pickled in vinegar as well, this recipe is more traditional. The combination of the two create a brine and act as a preservative which will inhibit mold growth and allow beneficial bacteria to thrive, breaking down the lemons.

It is popular on the Indian subcontinent and in North Africa, especially in Moroccan recipes such as tagine. Many other cultures have recipes including fermented lemons; Middle Eastern countries, such as; Indian, Lebanese, Libyan, Egyptian and others. Even the Mediterranean, Israelis and the Vietnamese also have some recipes containing them.

Single jar of quartered lemons.Pin

It was originally used as a way to preserve fresh lemons before refrigeration.

Presumably it was used they way we now use fresh lemon juice or zest. In such dishes as salmon and fish, veal, chicken, lamb and the like.

Lemons can be whole, halved, sliced or quartered.

In modern times, sometimes additional ingredients are added like peppercorns, sugar, honey, cinnamon, bay leaf and other spices.

What you need

  • Lemons – Meyer lemons are often used but if you don’t have access, you can use regular lemons.
  • Kosher salt or sea salt
Ingredients for preserved lemons. Lemons, kosher salt.Pin
Ingredients for fermented lemons.

How to make them

  1. Wash and scrub lemons well. slice off ends.
  2. Quarter them, halve them or slice whole lemons in half twice, not going all the way through the lemon.
  3. Add a tablespoon of salt to a sterilized quart jar. To sterilize jar, wet the jar and place it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Let jar dry naturally so that it remains sterile.
  4. Layer lemon pieces in jar, adding salt between layers.
  5. Muddle the lemons with a wooden spoon or like tool. (push them down to fit more lemons and release some of their juices.)
  6. Continue filling leaving a half inch headspace. Pack them in as tightly as you can. Add additional fresh lemon juice if needed to fill jar but maintain the headspace.
  7. Wipe the rim of jar. Apply a fermenting lid or cover jar with plastic wrap, pushed down to the top of the lemons and juice, so that the lemons stay covered by juice. Then add lid.
Pack them in as tightly as you can.Pin
Step by step process

Allow the lemons to sit on the counter at room temperature for about two weeks. Turn the jar upside down daily so that the salt distributes evenly.

How to store them

Once the fermenting is done, store the jar in the refrigerator or a cool basement. I keep mine in my root cellar.

How long do they last?

In theory, they will last indefinitely but they have the best flavor if they are used within one year. I have had them last for three but they lose flavor and texture.

How to use fermented lemons

When you use a piece of lemon, remove it from the jar and rinse it under cold water to remove some of the salt.

You can use either the entire piece with the flesh or just use the rind, whichever would be better for your recipe. Anywhere you would add fresh lemon to substitute these fermented ones.

You can use your lemons to flavor so many dishes. You can use it like you would pickles. It adds a different twist to;

  • hummus
  • couscous
  • sandwiches and burgers, especially lamb burgers.
  • salads
  • add it to mayonnaise for a different condiment
  • Mince it and add to salmon, shrimp and other fish and seafood recipes.
  • Add them to soups, sauces, dips and stews,
  • roasted veggies, vinaigrettes and more.
  • Use as a tangy topping for cottage cheese, yogurt or a fun and different ice cream topping.
Jar of lemons with fresh lemon and gray checked tea towel.Pin
Fermented Lemons

Once your lemons are fermented, the pith and the lemon rind lose their bitterness and acquire a delicious, tangy lemon flavor.

Give these fermented lemons a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe today.

Enjoy. And have fun cooking!

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Jar of preserved lemons.Pin

Fermented Lemons | Preserved Lemons

Fermented lemons, otherwise known as preserved lemons are an age old secret of top chefs around the world. It’s incredibly easy.
See Step by Step Photos Above!Most of our recipes have step by step photos and videos! Also helpful tips so that you can make it perfectly the first time and every time! Scroll up to see them!
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
fermenting time: 14 days
Total Time: 14 days 5 minutes
Servings: 1 quarts
Calories: 219kcal
Author: Beth Neels
Cost: $5

Ingredients

  • 7 fresh lemons
  • ½ cup coarse kosher salt or sea salt

Instructions

  • Wash and rinse lemons well. Cut ends off of lemons.
    7 fresh lemons
  • You can do whole, halved, quartered or sliced lemons. For whole lemons, cut them as if you were quartering them but do not go all the through so that the lemon stays together. Prepare the lemons.
  • Add a few tablespoons of salt to the bottom of the jar.
    ½ cup coarse kosher salt or sea salt
  • Add lemons, adding salt between layers.
  • Once you have jar almost full, push the lemons down with a wooden spoon or like tool. So that the lemons release some juice.
  • Add more lemons. Fill jar, leaving ¼ inch headspace.
  • Continue filling leaving a half inch headspace. Pack them in as tightly as you can. Add additional fresh lemon juice if needed to fill jar but maintain the headspace.
  • Wipe the rim of jar. Apply a fermenting lid or cover jar with plastic wrap, pushed down to the top of the lemons and juice, so that the lemons stay covered by juice. Then add lid.
  • Allow the lemons to sit on the counter at room temperature for about two weeks. Turn the jar upside down daily so that the salt distributes evenly.
  • Let air out of the jar every day if not using a fermenting lid.
  • To use lemon, remove a piece from the jar. Rinse under cold water to remove some of the salt.
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Notes

Once original fermentation is done. Store in the refrigerator or a cool basement.
 

Nutrition

Serving: 1quart | Calories: 219kcal | Carbohydrates: 70g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 56602mg | Potassium: 1055mg | Fiber: 21g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 166IU | Vitamin C: 401mg | Calcium: 232mg | Iron: 5mg
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12 Comments

  1. Hi Beth,
    I tried this, but there isn’t enough juice to submerge my lemons?
    What can I do?
    Thanks
    Yolande

    1. Hey Yolande. Continue to push them down, if there still enough, squeeze some lemons and add the juice to cover the lemons. Thanks!

  2. 5 stars
    I didn’t even know you could do this, what a great idea! This is perfect for some family friends who can’t use all of the lemons from their trees before they spoil! Thank you!

    1. For sure. It’s perfect if you have a lemon tree. Sadly, I don’t but I always find some to use! Thanks Emily.

  3. 5 stars
    Wow, I didnt know these preserved lemons can last up to a year. That’s amazing. Im hoping I can use these to bake lemon cookies for the kids.

    1. Sure. They would be great for lemon cookies. You may want to experiment a bit. The cookies will probably less salt than the recipe calls for. Thanks!

  4. 5 stars
    Absolutely love these! They’re perfect for Moroccan recipes and I’m so glad I can whip a batch up myself so easily now.

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