Preserved Lemons

When I first started studying different forms of fermentation & preservation methods (along with their benefits) back in school, I instantly fell in love with the idea of “preserved lemons”; and so, those were my first experiment and introduction into the world of preserved / fermented foods / beverages!

I’m not going to lie, I was scared to try them at first (lol) – how did I KNOW if they were safe?!

Well, luckily, with lacto-fermentation and the HIGH acidity from lemons, they are pretty much impossible to mess up! The one area of concern would be any cross contamination from unclean jars, materials or surrounding area which is why you always want to ensure an EXTRA hygiene working space when fermenting and preserving. You’ll know if there has been contamination if you see any mold. Sometimes, you may experience a thin white sheet of “kahm” yeast. This can happen in healthy fermentation and will not harm you but isn’t usually normal with this type of fermentation process.

Preserved lemons are a traditional ingredient in Northern African cuisine and are used in a variety of Moroccan dishes.  I love using the in tapas styled food but you can add them to a variety of dishes! They provide a sour, salty and a little sweet burst of flavour.

Traditionally, the lemons were left whole with the ends cut off and quartered almost all of the way through, but leaving the whole lemon still together. I personally cut them in a variety of shapes sizes so that I can fit the most i can in a jar. Aesthetically, leaving the whole and quartered looks lovely! You can also slice them in rounds and stack them in a jar- get creative!

People have also added other whole herbs, spices and vegetables to their preservation method. This can add flavour, colour, added nutrients and a beautiful aesthetic appeal but be careful not to add too many things that may change the pH levels / acidity. One area of caution would be items such as tomatoes. In my ingredient list I have given a few of the safer options that I prefer.

    • 6 – 12 washed high quality lemons (or limes!), ideally homegrown or organic
    • 6 – 12 tbsp high quality salt – sea salt or Himalayan work well
      • on average you use 1tbsp per medium size lemon
    • For flavouring options:
      • add 1 tsp of dried herbs/spices per lemon or use infused salts
      • or try 1 drop food grade essential oils (I use and offer DoTERRA)
    1. Take 1 – 2 lemons and juice completely. Keep the lemon juice ready and if needed add 1 – 2 cups of cold filtered water to the lemon juice to top up. Save the rinds and dice up small and set aside in a large bowl.
    2. Slice & dice the lemons the way you see fit. Try removing seeds if possible but when they are ready to use it is easy to remove at that point as well. Add them to the large bowl with the rinds and add all of your salt/flavouring except for 1tbsp. Mix all together until well combined and all pieces are well coated.
    3. Taking your sanitized jar, coat the car with 1tbsp of spices. Press the lemons tightly in the jar so that they release their juices and so that the lemon juice and salt combines into a brine that completely submerges the lemons.  If there is not enough brine, top up with the lemon juice. If there is not enough lemon juice, add a bit of cold filtered water.
    4. Place a weight over the lemons to ensure they stay submerged and seal the jar.
    5. Place in a cold dark location and let the lemons ferment for at least 1 month or ideally 3 months. If needed, burp the jar to release any gases but ensure not let any outer bacteria in. Lemons should ferment long enough so that the pith loses its bitterness and they are somewhat soft to touch.

I’ve shared this recipe as a video on my Instagram – let me know if you give this one a try!!


With love,
Heidi MacAulay, R.H.N.
“Eat more plants. Do more yoga. Read more books.”
Learn more about me, my credentials or how to work with me here!

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