Let’s talk about preserved lemons! During my recent vacation odyssey in Morocco, I made best friends with preserved lemons. After my first encounter with chicken tagine, I fell for them. Hard. If there was a tagine on the menu with preserved lemons, that’s what I was ordering. If we passed a vendor in our neighborhood in the Medina of Marrakech selling them, I had to stop and gaze. It was … an obsession. They are lemony and sweet and tart and fragrant and every tiny, tangy bite makes your soul happy. And being the Crazy Cook that I am, I had to try to make them at home, and share the process with you!
I started with two bags of organic lemons. I opted for Claudia Roden’s recipe from Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey & Lebanon (lent to me from my foodie friend Susan). And while it takes a month for them to fully “ripen,” I’ll share with you the “starter steps.” Come back in December for the final results!
Step 1. Get a bunch of organic lemons (like five to 10) and a clean, glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Wash and scrub them. That’s easy, right? .
Step 2. Now, the only somewhat tricky business, as you might think you need three hands. And you only have two. But you can do it! The traditional Moroccan style is to cut each lemon in quarters, but not all the way through so it’s still in one piece, more or less, and then stuff each lemon with a big teaspoon of sea salt, like so:
Step 3: Now you cram them into the jar. Really smush them in there, with your hands, so they’re all snug in the bottom of the jar.
Step 4: Seal the jar and leave it out on a counter (preferably not in direct sunlight) for about 3 days. The salt will cause the lemons to release some of their juices into the bottom of the jar. This is what you want (maybe 1/4 inch worth of juice was in my jar after 3 days).
Step 5: On Day 3 (or 4 if you want), juice the rest of your lemons and pour it into the jar like this:
I put five lemons into the jar (quartered) and juiced about five or six to get enough to cover the lot in the jar.
Step 6: Put another tablespoon of sea salt in the jar, on top of the lemon juice, like this:
Then seal up the jar tight and stick it in the back of your fridge – for a month. Yes, a month! At which time, hopefully, they will emerge soft and tangy and fragrant and delicious. According to Claudia, you then scoop out the pulp and rinse the rinds in fresh water to get rid of the salt, and then you can add them to, say, a chicken tagine, or just about anything – fish, chicken, pork, a pasta or cous cous dish. I’m even imagining them on a puffed Swedish pancake with powdered sugar ! I’ll let you know how they turn out, but it was fun starting the process, and now I can happily dream about recapturing that taste of Morocco that I so love! Happy, Crazy Cooking to you!