preserving lemons

Preserving Lemons

Lemons are very useful in the kitchen, and not only for baking. Throw the bits left over after cooking in the dishwater for squeaky clean dishes, add some juice to the laundry for extra white clothes or dilute it for cleaning stainless steel to a bright finish.

When it comes to cooking and baking, there are literally thousands of dishes that need a squeeze of tart lemon to brighten them up, and there are many dishes that make lemons the heroes, like lemon tart, hot lemon pudding, marmalade, lemon curd, fresh lemonade and much more. When it comes to preserving lemons from an abundant harvest, there are several ways to do it. Here are just a few:

  • Lemons will keep in the fridge for at least a week, and at least a month if packed into sealed bags or containers
  • Just about the easiest way to store lemons (if you have the space) is to throw them into the freezer just as they are. When they defrost, they can be used as normal, although they do become a little soft on the outside, but also extra juicy on the inside.
  • Freeze juiced lemons in ice trays and then pack them into freezer bags for cool drinks or to defrost for use in cooking
  • Dry lemon peel for use in marinades, cocktails, potpourri, or grind it up and use as a spice in any dish. Use a sharp knife or vegetable peeler to peel off the skin of each lemon, being careful not to include any bitter pith. Spread out on a baking try lined with parchment paper and dry out in a 200°C oven for about 25 – 30 minutes. Turn down the heat if they start to brown, but bake until good and stiff and dry. Store in jars until ready to use – they will keep for a few months
  • Arguably one of the tastiest preserving methods for lemons is to make limoncello. This Italian liqueur is a fragrant drink that needs to be served ice cold from the freezer and savoured slowly. Peel (with no pith) or zest 12 clean lemons and place this in a mason jar, then cover it with a litre of good-quality vodka. Cover and leave to brew for 4 weeks. Boil 3 cups of water and 1½ cups of sugar until the sugar is dissolved and add this to the strained brew. Bottle and leave for another 2 weeks before drinking.

Preserving lemons: salted lemons

Moroccan and Middle Eastern food often calls for preserved lemons, and making them is easy enough to do at home.

You will need sterilised jars to begin with. For 8 – 10 lemons, use ½ – 1 cup of salt. Start with a couple of tablespoons of salt in the bottom of the jar. Wash and scrub the lemons so they are very clean, and cut each lemon from the top in a cross, but not all the way to the base. (Leave the base intact.) Open each lemon and sprinkle well with salt. Place in the jars and press down so that the juice comes out and covers the lemons. Add extra juice if there is not enough. Add another couple of tablespoons of salt and close the lid. Let the jars sit for a couple of days at room temperature, and keep turning them upside down occasionally. After a few days, refrigerate the lemon jars and use after 3 weeks when the rind has softened.

To use, remove the lemons and rinse out the salt. Remove any seeds and pulp, and chop up for your dishes. Lemons preserved like this will last for up to 6 months in the fridge.

The Gardener