This North African delicacy involves packing lemons and salt into jars for around a month until most of the moisture has been drawn out and the lemons have become soft. Interestingly, it is not the juice or pith of a preserved lemon that is used, but only the skin.

The finished product is not overly salty, but wonderfully pungent and citrussy, with an added depth of complexity over a fresh lemon. Once preserved, the lemons are sliced into quarters and all the (now very mushy) pith is removed. The softened skin is then cut into small dice or slivers and added to all manner of dishes, such as tagines and couscous. But don't worry if you haven't an African extravaganza planned in the near future. Preserved lemons marry quite well to western dishes as well. Try it chopped over grilled fish or shellfish and it will make a potato salad memorable.

Ingredients

  • 10 nice ripe lemons
  • 150 gm (5oz) sea salt
  • 750 ml (3 cups) lemon juice, about 8 more lemons

    Method

    Wash the lemons very well. Cut into quarters to within 1cm of the base, so they can open up like a flower. Pack each lemon with some salt and press into a sterilized* jar. Sprinkle with the remaining salt and pour over the lemon juice to completely cover. Store for 4-6 weeks at room temperature in a dark place before using. Refrigerate after opening and they will last for at least a year


    * To sterilize jars, wash very well in warm soapy water, rinse and drain. Dry in a pre-heated 100°C (230°F) oven for 20 minutes.

  • After a few weeks, you will notice a cloudy sediment collecting near the bottom of the jar. This is completely normal and is no cause for alarm. It is simply carpel flesh and part of the albedo, or inner white rind of the lemon that has been dissolved by the salt.
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