Preserved Lemons: a fermented food with perks

iStock photo

iStock photo

I first tasted preserved lemons on an Oldways trip almost 20 years ago when a group of us – food writers, nutritionists, chefs and food historians – explored the Mediterranean Diet through traditional foods of Morocco.

As is standard for these Oldways culinary explorations, the top experts on the subject were there to provide detailed insight into the  culinary customs of the region.

In this case, we were lucky to be accompanied by Paula Wolfert, the foremost authority on Moroccan and Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, who familiarized us with  every aspect of the various dishes we sampled from tagines and couscous to preserved lemons and extraordinary olive oil.

Preserved lemons are a fermented food and consequently,  provide beneficial bacteria for your gut. To maintain the bacteria counts, be sure to keep them  refrigerated following the initial fermentation period.

Use them as a seasoning, diced and  mixed in with whole grains such as whole wheat couscous and quinoa or with vegetables. They’re also delicious with poultry or fish or really anyway you like!

While there’s a fair bit of salt used in the preparation, much of it remains in the brine.  And since the calorie count is very low and the fat content negligible, I have not included a nutritional analysis.

Preserved Lemons

Makes 4 preserved lemons

4 large lemons (preferably thin-skinned), scrubbed and dried
5 tbsp coarse salt
2 – 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice, if necessary

Cut each lemon  into 4 wedges ( but not all the way through so that the lemon remains in one piece).  Sprinkle 1 tbsp of salt on the inside  and outside of each.

Place lemons into a glass jar and sprinkle remaining 1 tbsp salt on top.  Squash the lemons down to  yield juice.  If the lemons are not covered in juice, add more fresh lemon juice to cover.  Cover with a glass or plastic lid.

Each day, for 10 days, turn the jar upside down to distribute the salt and juices.  Then store in the refrigerator. Rinse lemons well before using.


Do you make your own preserved lemons? How do you use them?

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Categories: Recipes

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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