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Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons by she cooks, she gardens
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A colleague of mine has a prolific Meyer lemon tree. A little over a month ago he brought me in a box of lemons which I duly took home to have a play around with. I just love Meyers, they have a wonderful, sweet aroma that pairs perfectly with both sweet and savoury dishes. Their skin is thinner and less bitter than that of a regular lemon so I love to add slivers of it to stewed fruit. I used my bounty in a simple lemon yoghurt cake, in a salad, I made some heavenly curd and then preserved some for use in a couple of months time.

Preserving lemons is a simple affair, simply pack the lemons full of salt, put in a jar and fill with lemon juice and boiling water. Seal up the jar and allow them to preserve for a month or so. They make fantastic gifts for friends and family,  look fabulous in your kitchen and can be used in a number of ways; I love them with eggs, they brighten up the bitterness of kale and broccoli, they can be stirred through pasta, used in hommus and, of course, are a staple in Moroccan cuisine.

If you’re not familiar with preserved lemon then you are in for a real treat. Unlike fresh lemon, you cut away the pith and use the skins. Thinly sliced they can be added to most dishes you can think of that will benefit from a hint of sweet lemon. If you don’t have access to a tree then they are available right now at the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market from Otherwood Orchards so why not pick up a bag and have a play.

4.7 from 3 reviews
Preserved Lemons
Prep time
Total time
It is best to use unwaxed lemons for this recipe but if you can only find waxed fruit then soak for them for 20 minutes in apple cider vinegar to remove. Rinse well before use.
Recipe type: Preserves
Serves: many
  • large, wide-mouthed, lidded jars - washed and sterilised
  • 1 kilo of Meyer lemons
  • 1 bag of rock salt
  • 2 chillies
  • 2-3 cinnamon quills
  • 2 star anise
  • olive oil
  1. Scrub the lemons to remove any dirt or grime.
  2. Cut a cross into the lemons, cutting almost to the bottom, but not all the way through.
  3. Over a large bowl, hold a lemon in the palm of your hand and pack with salt.
  4. Gently squeeze it closed.
  5. Put the lemon into the jar and repeat.
  6. Pack the lemons into the jar, getting as many in as you can.
  7. Repeat until the jar is filled to the top.
  8. Add in the star anise, chillies and cinnamon quills as you go.
  9. Pour the juice and salt captured in the bowl into the jar.
  10. Boil the kettle and fill almost to the top with boiling water.
  11. Pour a layer of olive oil on the top of the lemons and seal the jar.
  12. Pop them in a cupboard out of the way for at least a month.
  13. To use simply take a lemon from the jar, cut away and discard the pith and then finely slice the skin.

Stay tuned for some of my favourite ways to use preserved lemons in the kitchen.

{ 21 comments… add one }

  • Chantelle August 6, 2012, 2:27 am

    These look beautiful, I’ve never used preserved lemons before as I haven’t been sure what to do with them with exactly. I think I’ll have to give them a go soon though as I’m sure they would liven up a lot of dishes I cook. I look forward to hearing more about you like to use them.

    • Erin B August 8, 2012, 7:16 am

      Thanks Chantelle, the flavour is a salty, briny but sweet lemon flavour, not at all like a sour lemon you’re expecting. It works wonderfully with most flavours, you should definitely give them a shot.

  • Kyrstie @ A Fresh Legacy August 6, 2012, 4:21 am

    Your preserved lemons look lovely Erin. I have brought in an armful from my tree twice to make these and still havent gotten around to it! Kyrstie

    • Erin B August 8, 2012, 7:14 am

      Thanks Kyrstie! Send some lemons over this way, I’ll put them to good use. :)

  • Lucy August 6, 2012, 12:11 pm

    Wow my neighbour has just given us a massive pile of lemons and I was thinking of doing preserved lemons. This post is perfect timing, will try out for certain as it sounds so simple

    • Erin B August 8, 2012, 7:14 am

      Excellent Lucy, you should definitely give them a go, they are a great thing to have on hand and will last forever! :)

  • Amy @ Food Crush August 8, 2012, 2:09 pm

    I can’t get my hands on preserved lemons in the UK, so I was thinking about making my own. Do you use unwaxed lemons in yours?

    • Erin B August 9, 2012, 12:55 am

      Hi Amy, yes these were unwaxed because they came from a friends tree. If you can only get waxed lemons, try soaking them in apple cider vinegar for about 30 minutes. Sounds strange but it does the trick. Rinse them off and you’re ready to go. :)

  • Tina August 10, 2012, 9:57 pm

    I just used Meyer Lemons recently as well! I didn’t preserve them though. I’m going to have to my friend’s tree and steal some more to make your recipe. Thanks for sharing.

  • Chloe August 13, 2012, 4:16 pm

    This is perfect timing Erin! I have just received over a kilo of Meyer lemons and have been meaning to try and find a preserved lemons recipe. Will have to give it a go.

    Does it matter if the lemons are a bit older (ie. not straight off the tree)?

    • Erin B August 13, 2012, 4:45 pm

      Hi Chloe, thanks for stopping by. They should be fine, just be sure to give them a good clean to wash off any nasties that might have settled during storage. :)

      ps – you should have a go at some curd, too.

      • Chloe August 13, 2012, 4:48 pm

        Thank you!

      • Chloe August 13, 2012, 4:49 pm

        Thank you! Oooo curd sounds delish – one of my favourites to eat… Don’t know how I’d go at making it…eep!

        • Erin B August 14, 2012, 8:43 am

          It’s not as hard as it sounds, I promise! :)

  • Cullen Habel January 17, 2013, 3:53 pm

    I’m looking forward to your suggestions on how to use these. A buddy gave me a jar and I’m still trying to work it out.

  • Robyn March 16, 2013, 7:13 pm

    I have a new Meyer I planted last year. So far it has about 6-8 lovely lemons on it. I’m looking forward to making preserved lemons. I have made preserved lemons once before, but they went all mouldy. I wanted to use the jars the same as iN your pic. How do you sterilise them? BTW, in Adelaide too….

    • Erin B March 18, 2013, 12:23 pm

      Hey Robyn,

      I sterilise all my jars by running them through the dishwasher, timing it so that I am ready to load in as the cycle is finished (and the glass is still hot). If you don’t have a dishwasher then I would wash everything with hot, soapy water, fill with boiling water and then dry them out in a hot oven. It’s really important to cover the final layer with oil to ensure no air can get in and spoil your lemons too.

  • Sandra Mae April 21, 2013, 2:39 pm

    I also wash the jars and then steam them over boiling water,. I also use baby bottle sterilising solution but let them dry thoroughly to make sure no solution gets in the fruit.

  • Nikki May 5, 2013, 9:43 am

    I preserved some lemons a couple of months ago and used them for the first time today. Now that I have taken a couple out the liquid no longer covers the lemons that are left. Should I add more boiling water or leave as is? What do you normally do?

    • Erin B May 10, 2013, 9:19 am

      Hi Nikki, I usually leave everything as is and store them in the fridge.

  • Diane April 16, 2014, 11:15 pm

    I was wondering where I might buy preserved lemons in Tokyo. I googled ‘preserved lemons – Tokyo” and up you popped. I am now wondering if you know a friend of mine, who also knows a nephew of mine?? I am further wondering if you could please bring some preserved lemons next time you visit Tokyo???? I promise I will pay you for them..
    Don’t you love it!!

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