Savory, preserved lemons are not something that we often use in Western cuisine. When we think of using preserved lemons in a dish, we typically think of Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes, but preserved lemons can add a punch of flavor to many types of dishes. I've listed some ideas below for how to use preserved lemon. I've tried many different versions for preserving lemons. I find the best flavor and most success with this version below. Often, we cover ingredients in ferments with a liquid brine; however, this method is more similar to sauerkraut. It ferments in it's own juices. If you're not accustomed to using preserved lemons, I suggest starting with just a couple lemons in a pint jar.
2 tsp. non-iodized salt, per large lemon, *see notes
2 tsp. pure, organic maple syrup, per large lemon
1. Wash each lemon thoroughly. Cut the end and tip off each lemon. Slice each lemon in half and cut into wedges, or cut each whole lemon into round slices. I usually cut in half and do 6 wedges per lemon half. If I do them too thin, I end up cutting my finger:( Place the wedges or slices in a bowl. The thinner the lemon wedges or slices are, the faster they will ferment and will eventually turn into more of a chutney texture; so keep that in mind, when determining the size and shape of your slices, depending on which texture you prefer.
2. Add salt and syrup and mix well until the salt has dissolved.
3. Put the mixture into a jar, including the juice that the lemons release.
4. Place a lid on the jar and turn back slightly, so it's not tight (so gas can escape.) I like to use a plastic lid like this on a jar with a wide mouth. It doesn't seal tight, so I don't need to worry about the building pressure. In addition, the acid tends to corrode the metal, making for a dark yucky ring around the jar; although, it's harmless and you can just wipe it off.
5. Place the jar on the counter at room temperature. Ferment on counter at room temperature for 1-2 weeks. Each day, tighten the lid and shake to redistribute the contents. Press the lemons down into the brine, then place the lid on the jar and turn back slightly to allow pressure to escape. Once the lemons are fully submerged in the brine, you can just leave them fermenting in the brine without shaking each day. Some lemons are more juicy than others, so some batches may release enough juice to cover the lemons in brine and some will not. Taste after 1 week, if you like the taste and texture, place in the fridge to store for up to a year, *see notes. If you would like it a bit softer ferment for another week, or longer, until the lemons are the texture and flavor you prefer.
6. This ferment will take at least 1-2 weeks to tenderize the lemon rind and develop flavor. The lemons will continue to develop flavor and change in texture over time.
7. If you find the lemon too salty for how you'll be using it, rinse slightly under running water to remove excess salt.
How to Use Preserved Lemons
As a condiment, especially with Middle Eastern Foods
With fish or chicken
Upset tummy; just a small spoonful
Digestive aid; small spoonful alongside meal
In Steamed Vegetables
In a Soup
In a Stew
In Moroccan and Middle Eastern Dishes
In a Salad
In Grain Dishes
Blended into salad dressing
I do about 6 lemons for a quart jar. Because they last for a long time, making a big batch less frequently is preferable for me.
Refrigeration is not necessary; just keep out of bright light and in a cool-ish spot. The lemons will continue to break down into more of a chutney, unless you refrigerate them after 1-2 weeks, which slows the process. So, store long term in the fridge or pantry, depending on the texture you prefer. I like them both ways.
I love this blogger's method of a perpetual lemon pickle here. I also enjoyed the description of her great grandmother in India making this. Just keep the ratio to 1 lemon to 2 tsp. salt and 2 tsp. pure maple syrup when you add new lemon to a perpetual pickle jar.
Iodized salt will kill the important beneficial bacteria to produce a healthy ferment.
I use to use 2 tsp. of salt per lemon. I've experimented a couple times with using less salt, but it has a tendency to go bitter. Two teaspoons seems to be the right amount to keep the bacteria in balance.