How to preserve lemons

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Preserved lemons are used in Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cooking. They are easy to make at home and can be used in tagines and couscous dishes. If you don’t want to make your own, you can buy them at Asian and middle-eastern stores.


1 x 500ml sterilised Kilner or preserving jar (*see below)
6 unwaxed lemons and the juice of 2 lemons
4-5 tablespoons coarse sea salt


1. Wash and dry the lemons (if you can’t find unwaxed lemons, scrub the waxed lemons well to remove the coating). Remove the little pod at the stem and cut each lemon almost into quarters, but leave the segments attached at the base of the lemon.

2. Spoon as much sea salt as you can fit into the middle of each lemon and place it into the Kilner jar, pressing it down to release its juice.

3. Once all the lemons are in the jar, check to see if there is enough juice to cover the fruit. If not, add the juice of the extra 2 lemons – you may not need all of it.

3. Seal the jar and leave it in a cool, dark place for 3 weeks, turning it over once or twice a week to circulate the juice and salt. If the lemons are no longer covered at any stage, add more fresh lemon juice.

4. After 3 weeks, check whether the lemons are soft and if they are, store the jar in the fridge and use – they will last up to a year. If they are not soft enough, close the jar and leave it for another week and check again.

* How to sterilise a Kilner or preserving jar
Wash the jar and its lid (without the rubber seal) in the dishwasher at the hottest setting and use it immediately to pot your preserved lemons. Sterilise the rubber seal by sitting it in a clean bowl of boiling water for 5 minutes.

A note on preserving jars
You can use any preserving jar. We use Kilner (and it’s become a byword for a preserving jar) or Weck jars (we like their pot-bellied shape) but any jar with a preserving seal will work. It must be airtight when it is closed for this recipe.


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