In preparation of a delicious Moroccan Tagine dish, I would like to explain how to make your own preserved lemons, as they are a key ingredient in the tagine recipe. The lemons take a few weeks to preserve, so it’s best to get started once you have read this post 🙂
Lemons first found their fame when the Scottish physician James Lind discovered that they could help prevent scurvy in sailors. A disease that involves the breakdown of bodily tissues and often presents with gum disease, weakness and poor wound healing. It may even lead to death. As it turned out, it was the vitamin C content of the lemons that helped prevent and cure the disease. Vitamin C is an important building block for the protein collagen, which is needed to produce connective tissue and to keep the skin and joints healthy, so the perfect anti-aging vitamin too.
The high Vitamin C content of cause also helps to fight infections in general. Their juice was even used as a disinfectant and antiseptic before all the chemicals came on the market, so for those of you who would like to use less chemical in the household, this is a fantastic option. When fighting an infection it’s best to enjoy the lemons fresh as the vitamin C is destroyed by heat.
There are a few other health promoting nutrients kicking around in your lemons too, these include vitamin A, B1, B6, potassium, folic acid and a bunch of antioxidant, flavonoids and essential oils. So here we have one fineyellow powerhouse citrus fruit that is worth stocking up on especially during the cold season.
Now, preserving lemons in salt is good way to have a supply all year round. All you need is a sterilized medium sized Kilner or Mason jar, 5-8 organic unwaxed lemons, sea salt and an optional selection of spices . I like to use cinnamon, star anise, dried red chilis and bay leaves. You will also need a little patience, as the lemons take about 4 weeks until they are ready to be used, but it is well worth the wait.
During this 4 week period the process of lactic acid fermentation turns them into a delicious pro-biotic food and similar to Sauerkraut, they may be supportive of digestive health, which your beneficial gut bacteria will be rather happy about. Preserved lemons are delicious in stews, pasta dishes, couscous and soups and are the perfect addition to your salad dressings. They also make a great Christmas present, so you might want to make a few batches.
6 small to medium sized unwaxed organic lemons, some extra for juicing
6 tbsp of sea salt, plus 2 extra tbsp for the bottom of the jar
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 small red dried chillis
2 star anise
1. First sterilise a medium sized Kilner jar. Simply add boiling water, leave to sit for a a few minutes, empty it out and leave to dry.
2. To bring out the flavour, briefly toast the cinnamon stick, cloves and star anise in a frying pan. Mix with the salt and add two tablespoons to the jar, just about covering the bottom, then set the rest of the salt and spice mix aside.
3. Rinse and dry the lemons, cut off the tips, quarter them from the top, leaving 1 cm at the bottom, so they stay in one piece. Then add 1 tbsp of the salt and spice mix onto the exposed flesh of each lemon, press the lemon back into shape, place in the jar.
4. Repeat this process with each lemon, tightly packing them into the jar. Each time press down the lemons well to release their juices and to make more space for the next. Leave some airspace at the top (3-4cm) before closing the jar tightly.
5. The lemons need to be covered in their juices, so if needs be, add more freshly squeezed juice until they are fully covered. This will provide the environment needed for the fermentation process. Oxygen exposure may result in mould growing, therefore always keep an eye on your lemons and add more freshly squeezed juice if needed.
6. Keep the jar in a dark place for 30 days. In order to distribute the juices and salt you can either turn the jar every few days or a little shake should do a similar job.
After 30 days they are ready to be used. Rinse the lemons under running water before use. When adding them to stews you can leave the pulp on, for salads and dressings, remove it. Once opened the lemons do not need to be refrigerated, just make sure, they are covered in their juices. This way they keep for up to a year and during this time you can use the juices to preserve more lemons.
Have fun and enjoy!