Preserved lemons (aka fermented lemons, salted lemons, or cured lemons) are a beautiful, lacto-fermented condiment that’s a total flavor bomb. They are great for adding complexity, brightness, saltiness, and concentrated, citrusy notes to whatever you’re cooking. Try them in sauces, soups, salads, pasta, drinks, etc.
- lemons (preferably organic and unwaxed), washed and dried
- sea salt
- aromatics like bay leaf, peppercorns, dried chiles, cinnamon sticks, etc. (optional)
- Prepare a clean glass jar, preferably with a glass top. Cut the stem end off the lemons so that they can stand up on their own. Cut a cross into the lemons, almost all the way through, but not quite, so that they still stay together.
- Start packing salt into the lemons (at the cross shaped opening), one at a time. Aim to add about 1 tablespoon of salt per lemon, but don't worry about being too exact. Add your first lemon to the jar and pack it in with your hands or a tamper, so that it releases a bunch of its juices. Continue with the rest of the lemons, as many as can fit into your jar. The goal is to have the lemons packed very tightly into the jar and completely submerged in lemon juice. Add the aromatics about halfway through filling up the jar, if using. Towards the end, you might have to cut the lemons into halves or quarters to fit them into the empty areas of the jar. Top off the jar with a few more generous pinches of salt and seal shut with a lid. Turn the jar upside down a few times to release any air bubbles and check if the lemons are completely submerged in the lemon juice. If not, open the jar and top it off with more lemon juice.
- Leave the jar to sit in a cool, dim place, shaking periodically to redistribute the salt, for about 1 month. When the lemons are ready, their rind should be soft and almost jelly-like in consistency. They should smell pleasantly bright and concentrated. Transfer the jar to the refrigerator as is, or puree the preserved lemons into a paste using a food processor, for more ease of use. The lemons should keep in the refrigerator for 6 months or longer.