Moroccan preserved lemons bring bright notes of citrus, vibrant saltiness and muted, complex tartness to your cooking. Preserved lemons gain their characteristic flavor through long, slow fermentation, and it’s this traditional process that breaks down the lemons’s rind, removes its bitterness and gives you a marvelously complex, bright flavor that pairs beautifully with roasted chicken, grilled fish and braised vegetables.
What to preserved lemons taste like?
The flesh of preserved lemons is bright, salty and citrusy, and you can use it to make sauces or in vinaigrettes. While the flesh is nice, the rind is particularly valued, and it loses its bitterness during fermentation leaving a pleasantly tart, salty, floral flavor that is well-suited to a variety of dishes.
How long do preserved lemons last?
Fermentation, or the process of preserving lemons the traditional Moroccan way, takes about a month or two, depending on the volume of lemons you plan to preserve. More lemons require more fermentation time. Lemons are ready once their rind becomes pliable and loses its bitterness.
Once they’re properly fermented, preserved lemons will last six months to a year. You can store them in the refrigerator; however, they can also be stored at room temperature because the salty, acidic brine created during fermentation acts like a preservative.
How do you make preserved lemons?
To make Moroccan preserved lemons, you’ll need to first select your lemons. Thin-skinned lemons like Meyer lemons work particularly well since they require less time for the rind to soften and release its bitterness, so they are done and ready to use faster than if you use thick-skinned lemons. Meyer lemons also offer a complex floral notes, which enhances the flavor of your finished lemons. Since you’ll also be eating the rind, look for organically grown, unwaxed lemons, if possible.
Cut the lemons first by trimming their ends just enough to expose the white pith without exposing the flesh, and then quarter the lemon length-wise, keeping the base intact and without fully separating the quarters. You’ll add salt to the interior of the lemon which helps to preserve them.
Pack the lemons tightly into a jar, preferably one with an airlock which helps to prevent mold formation, and weigh them down with a glass weight so that the brine created by lemon juice and salt keeps them submerged. Let them ferment until the rinds lose their bitterness, about a month, and then they’re ready to eat.
What you need to ferment lemons safely.
Preserved lemons, like many fermented vegetables, relies on a process called lactofermentation that encourages the proliferation of lactic acid-producing bacteria. These bacteria thrive best in anaerobic conditions, or without the flow of oxygen. Oxygen exposure in fermented foods can also leave the foods more likely to mold.
How to Use Moroccan Preserved Lemons
Fermented lemons have a pleasant, complex citrus flavor that pairs beautifully with savory dishes. They marry particularly well with chicken and fish dishes, and you can also use them to make condiments and sauces.
In most culinary applications, you’ll discard the preserved lemon’s flesh, and reserve its rind; however, both parts are edible.
Savory-Roasted Chicken with Lemon blends preserved lemons and fresh herbs with chicken and root vegetables.
Preserved Lemon Allioli is a bright, citrusy condiment made with lemon, olive oil and garlic.
Preserved Lemon and Parsley Tapenade is an excellent condiment to serve on top of grilled fish.