I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” before. But lemons are good for so much more than lemons! After all, why not make lemon pie! If you have an abundance of lemons and want to try your hand at fermenting them, try this recipe for preserved lemons in your kitchen.
Salted preserved lemons taste like fresh lemons, only more intense. When you eat them like a pickle the lemon flavor bursts in your mouth. You can squeeze them over fish or tuck one inside the cavity of a chicken before you roast it. This is the best way to preserve the lemon harvest. Don’t skimp on the salt. It’s the salt that preserves them and keeps them from molding before they are finished fermenting.
Keep the lemons fully submerged using the glass weight in the Fermentools kit and you’ll have a perfect batch. And when you see how quickly you can prepare a batch, you’ll always have a jar in your fridge.
A Recipe for Preserved Lemons
Salted Preserved Lemons
• 3 lbs of organic lemons, about 10 to 12
• ½ cup of coarse Celtic sea salt
• 2 cups lemon juice, fresh, if possible
• 2 Tbsp starter culture, like the liquid from a successful batch of pickles
• 1 Fermentools kit
• 1 quart wide-mouth jar
• Metal ring for the wide mouth jar
• Sharp paring knife
• Bowl for salt
Preparing the Lemons:
1. Wash the lemons, scrubbing away any dirt or residue. Cut off the tip of each lemon. Using a sharp knife cut each lemon almost all the way through but leaving the round end intact. Turn the lemon, 90 degrees in your hand and cut it almost all the way through again, but leave the end intact. Your lemon will be quartered with a hinge that lets it open in your palm like a flower. If you have large lemons cut them into 6 wedges, leaving the round end intact. Don’t try to remove the seeds.
2. If you inadvertently cut all the way through the lemon, you can still use them in your ferment, they just won’t look as gorgeous. Use the wedges to fill in the spaces between the whole lemons.
3. Put the salt in a bowl, to make it easy to use.
4. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of salt in the bottom of your clean and sterilized quart jar.
5. Open each lemon in your palm, spreading out the lemon wedges, without breaking the hinge. Place one teaspoon of salt into the open lemon and close the lemon. Place the salted lemon into the jar. Repeat with the remaining lemons. If you have any salt remaining sprinkle it on top of the lemons in the jar.
6. Pour the lemon juice over the lemons, filling up any spaces between the fruit in the jar. Dislodge any remaining air bubbles with a clean knife. Add the starter culture to the jar. Fill the jar to the shoulders with lemon juice, leaving a 1-inch head space to allow the contents to expand during fermentation. Give the jar a bit of a shake to mix it in.
Prepare the Fermentools Kit:
7. Clean the Fermentools kit components in hot soapy water. Rinse well. Sterilize all parts of the kit in hydrogen peroxide. Wipe them dry with a clean cloth or tea towel. Do not use boiling water to sterilize the Fermentools kit. It will damage the fermentation lock.
8. Place the glass weight from the Fermentools kit into the neck of the glass jar. Push it down into the lemon juice/brine, and submerge the lemons under the liquid. The pressure from the glass weight will help the lemons release their juice.
9. Place the gasket, lid, stopper and fermentation lock on top of the jar and secure them in place with the metal ring from a wide mouth canning jar.
10. Place the jar on a plate to catch any spills. Ferment at room temperature, away from direct sunlight.
Ferment the Lemons:
After 24 to 48 hours you will notice fine bubbles forming inside the jar. Those bubbles will become coarser and more numerous over the next 72 hours. The fermenting lemons will rise in the jar.
Continue fermenting until the active phase of the fermentation stops and the lemons drop in the jar. The active fermentation phase causes pressure to build up in the jar. Once the active phase stops, the pressure drops, and this is what causes the lemons to drop in the jar. The length of the active fermentation period varies based on ambient temperature and other variables.
Since the lemons are acidic they will take a little longer to ferment than other fermented vegetables. Allow up to three weeks for the lemons to finish fermenting. In this recipe for preserved lemons, the skin will soften and become slightly translucent. The whole lemon will be edible, including the peel.
Once the fermentation is complete the lemons will keep in a closed jar in the refrigerator for 6 months to a year. If the liquid in the jar drops below the level of the lemons, top up with filtered water.
If the lemons become mushy, there is an off odor, or there is mold forming on the surface of the brine, discard the contents of the jar and start again. If the lemons remain firm and smell lemony, but a chalky white, translucent film forms on the surface of the brine, simply spoon off the film as you see it forming. This is yeast and is not harmful to the fermentation process. As you gain more experience in fermenting you’ll begin to discern the difference between benign yeast and harmful mold or spoilage.
Once the lemons are fully preserved with fermentation, they are protected from organisms that cause spoilage by the beneficial lacto-bacteria in the ferment.
Now bite into a salt preserved lemon and taste the intense lemon flavor. Wasn’t it worth it? Add preserved lemons to chicken and fish. Finely chop preserved lemons and add them to your homemade hummus instead of fresh lemon juice and zest. Add parsley, rosemary, mint, and sage to this recipe for preserved lemons to complement the intense flavor.
The star of the Fermentools kit is the fermentation lid for Mason jars. Our lids are created from surgical steel to last a lifetime. And, the lids and glass weights in the kit are made in North Americal. To purchase your own fermentation supplies, visit the Fermentools store.