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Recipe: Moroccan Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons take about a month to ferment, so starting the lemons now will allow you to have these beautiful, zesty, salty treats as part of your Sukkot meal. This recipe was very freely adapted from Paula Wolfert’s “Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco”.

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10-14 lemons, preferably unwaxed and organic (because you’re not peeling them)
Approximately ⅓ cup kosher salt
2-4 bay leaves
2-10 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 quart-size Ball or similar canning jar with lid

1) Wash jar and lid in hot water and air dry. Wash lemons to remove external dirt.

2) With a sharp knife, cut a lemon in half the long way, starting from the blossom end and going toward the stem end — but stop about a half inch before the end, that the two halves are still connected. Turn 90 degrees and repeat, so that now the lemon is in four long wedges, all connected at the stem end.

3) Shake a generous coating of kosher salt, about a tablespoon, into the cut lemon, so that all of the exposed interior surfaces are coated. Tuck the salty lemon into the jar.

4) Repeat with more lemons. As each is cut and salted, press it into the jar, so that the jar is packed as tightly as possible, and the pressed lemons begin to release a fair amount of their salty juice into the jar. If there are spaces you can’t squeeze a whole lemon into, it’s OK to break one in half. Keep packing until you can’t fit any more lemons into the jar, probably about 8 lemons.

5) Tuck and shake the bay leaves and spices down among the packed lemons.

6) Squeeze remaining lemons one by one and add their juice to the jar until the lemons are covered.

7) Cover jar tightly. Invert and shake a couple of times to dissolve any salt that has drifted to the bottom. Set on a counter to ripen. For the first few days, loosen the lid several times a day to ‘burp’ the jar, releasing gas produced by their fermentation. When gas stops rising so much, set jar aside to continue fermenting about 3-4 weeks, until rind is tender to the bite, then refrigerate.

Note: Fermented lemons will keep in the fridge for at least a year. Brine can be reused as a starter for the next jar; or follow Paula Wolfert’s advice and toss occasional leftover lemon halves, their cut surfaces salted, into the jar, to keep it going longer.


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