How to Make Preserved Meyer Lemons, Moroccan-style
I've been in love with using fresh lemons in my kitchen for a long time. I often use the zest, juice and slices to add freshness, acidity and that distinct perfumed sourness lemons provide. Meyer lemons took my love affair to a whole new level of pleasure... and the first time I tasted preserved Meyer lemons, I knew I wanted to make my own. Preserved Meyer lemons are soft and salty with a bright lemon flavor and none of the tart bitterness of regular fresh lemons. Preserved Meyer lemons can be made with as little as two ingredients, but often they are flavored with herbs and spices. I'm going to show you to make your own homemade Meyer Lemons, Moroccan-style.
So what makes Meyer lemons so special and how do they differ from the standard varieties (usually Lisbon or Eureka)? There are four distinct differences between regular lemons and a Meyer lemon:
🍋 Size - Meyer lemons are noticeably smaller with thinner skins that are more golden, smooth and shiny than regular lemons
🍋 Taste - Meyer lemons are less acidic and sweeter than regular lemons, making them a good choice for desserts, salads and beverages
🍋 Fragrance - Meyer lemons have a more complex scent, more like spicy bergamot which makes them useful as an herb as well as a fruit
🍋 Availability - Meyer lemons are only available for a few months, not year-round like regular lemons. They usually start showing up in November and will taper off between March and May.
Although Moroccan-style preserved Meyer lemons can include a variety of herbs and spices: fresh rosemary, red peppers, cumin seed, coriander seed and peppercorns, they always include a thin layer of olive oil as the top layer. Neither the spices nor the layer of oil are necessary. If you choose not to use them your preserved lemons will still be delicious.
Let's get started!
First decide what size jar you want to use. Unless you already use preserved Meyer lemons fairly often or you plan to share some, I recommend nothing larger than a quart sized jar - a little goes a long way. I used a dozen lemons in a half-gallon Mason jar for approximately six cups of preserved lemons. Weck-style jars would work as well. If you choose to use a hinged clasp-locking glass jar, you may need to take extra care to clean any brine drips from the metal parts to prevent the salt from corroding these.
This version is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Jerusalem.
For a quart-sized jar, you will need:
• 6 Meyer lemons, whole, organic if possible*
• 6 lemons, juiced (any variety)**
• 6 Tbsp. kosher salt or course sea salt***
• 2 fresh rosemary sprigs (used 1 week after the lemons have begun fermenting)
• 1 dried red pepper or 1/2 tsp dried pepper flakes (used 1 week after the lemons have begun fermenting)
* Organic Meyer lemons are more important here since you will be eating the peel. Some lemons are sold waxed. Purchase unwaxed lemons if at all possible. If you don't have this option, use soap on a vegetable brush and warm (not hot) water to remove the wax. Some people pour boiling water over the lemons to remove the wax, but this will likely kill any microbes living on the skins. As with all fermented vegetables, live microbes contribute to the fermentation process, so you want to keep them alive.
** Additional lemon juice is needed to fully cover the lemons to begin fermentation. Meyer lemons are usually more expensive than regular lemons, so use any fresh lemons for the juice.
*** Do not swap out the Kosher salt or regular table salt or these will be too salty.
Total Time: 4-6 weeks Prep Time: 15 minutes Bake/Cook Time: None
1. First, sterilize your clean jar, lid, and cocktail muddler (or similar tool) by pouring boiling water to the top and leaving it to sit for a couple of minutes while you prepare the lemons.
2. Wash and dry the lemons. Trim off both ends. You can save these pieces for another use. Drain the hot water from your jar and let it air dry. Do not use a paper or cloth towel to dry the inside. This will prevent germs from being reintroduced.
3. Make crisscross cuts into each lemon, stopping about 1/4-1/2" from the base. This allows the salt greater surface contact with the lemons, but it's not the end of the world if you cut all the way through.
4. Sprinkle each lemon with 1 Tbsp. kosher salt, ensuring plenty of salt gets down into the center of each lemon. I find it's easier to do this over a bowl.
5. Add the lemons to your dry jar, scrapping any salt left in the bowl into the jar as well.
6. Using your cocktail muddler (or metal spoon) push the lemons as tightly into the jar as possible. The salt should already be helping to extract some moisture.
7. Let them sit while you juice the other six lemons. Add the juice to the jar and continue pushing the lemons down until the liquid has covered the lemons. The liquid may not fully cover the lemons until the salt has time to extract more moisture and soften the lemons more. If you have fermentation weights or an airlock lid, you may use those now, but they are not necessary.
8. Keep the jar in a cool dark location where you can check on it easily for one week. Do not store it in the refrigerator. It needs to be stored between 60-70 degrees F to encourage fermentation. Occasionally push the lemons down again and swirl the jar to help dissolve the salt.
9. After one week, remove the lid and push the lemons down as hard as you can with a sterilized mottler or metal spoon. Add the rosemary, red pepper (or flakes) and thin layer of olive oil (if using). The oil seals out air and contributes flavor.
10. Return the jar to a cool place for another 3-5 weeks. You can begin tasting the lemons after 4 weeks by removing one lemon (or piece of a lemon) and cutting off a small piece. The skins should be soft throughout with an umami-like saltiness and bright lemon flavor. Preserved lemons will continue to change over time. They do not need to be refrigerated. However, once you are happy with the level of fermentation you can refrigerate them to slow the fermentation process. They will keep for 1-2 years.
How to use Preserved Meyer Lemons - Moroccan-style:
Some people prefer to just use the rinds, but I think the pulp is useful too - depending on what you're making - just remove the seeds. Preserved lemons will be salty, but they can be rinsed if you want to include more of the preserved lemon flavor without as much saltiness.
You may choose to make a preserved lemon paste by taking several of the lemons and a little rosemary and pureeing them in your blender. This paste can be added to dips or spreads, marinades or as a base for pizza or flatbreads.
Here's an excellent Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette that's fantastic on greens or grain-based salads, especially with legumes included!
• 1-2 preserved Meyer lemons (flesh included), rinsed and seeds removed.
• 4 cloves garlic
• 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
• 1 tsp Greek oregano
• 1 Tbsp thyme-infused local honey (if available)
• 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
• 1/3 cup cold pressed olive oil
1. Add the first 6 ingredients to your blender. Pulse a few times, then with the blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until fully incorporated and nicely emulsified.
Here are some other ways to use finely chopped Preserved Meyer Lemons, Moroccan-style:
• Use it to make fresh pea crostini
• Add it to hummus
• Add it to pasta or whole grain salads
• Add it to white bean dishes
• Stir some into soups
• Use it in spring pesto
• Use it in marinades for grilled veg
• Use some to make killer roast potatoes
Have some more ideas on how to use Preserved Meyer Lemons, Moroccan-style? Comment below! For more information on the lacto-fermentation process, be sure to check out my Sauerkraut post!
Be sure to show me what you make! Tag me #chefcatherinebrown - I LOVE seeing what you make!
DISCLOSURES: None. This post was not created in affiliation with any product or brand. The opinions expressed are my own. I will only write about products I use and trust.
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