Preserved Lemons

Being Canadian has its pride.

We can withstand the loooong cold winters. We have hockey and maple syrup and most importantly poutine. We have 1 full month of summer and yet still garden. We wear shorts when it is 10 degrees Celsius outside, and we can walk through the snow barefoot.
But for all that pride and ice in our veins, there is one thing lacking, and I am Canadian enough to admit it.
There is no fresh grown citrus.
 Some people keep indoor citrus trees. I myself have 3 little lemon trees that have just sprouted, but it will take years for them to produce just one lemon.
And girlfriend loves citrus! Especially lemons. So no I do not eat completely local. I do buy lemons.
And limes.
And occasionally oranges and grapefruit.


Citrus is like sun in a fruit. And some days we Canadian’s just need some sun!

Preserved Lemons

(Adapted from The Elliott Homestead: Preserved Lemons – if you haven’t checked out her blog you really really need to!)

You Will Need

2 pounds of  Organic Lemons – You MUST use organic. I’m going to be pushy on this. Use organic. You will be leaving the rind on and trust me you don’t want pesticides swimming around in there.
3 tablespoons of sea salt
Juice from 2 organic lemons
Wide Mouthed Quart Sized Mason Jar
To Infuse a different flavor into your lemons you can used any of the following:
  • 3 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • A few pieces of ginger root
  • 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • A few whole cloves
  • Dried Chili Pepper
  • 3 cracked cardamom pods


Slice and discard the ends of lemons.
Slice lemons anyways you want. Most people recommend slicing them in quarters, them packing the salt in them. I did mine in slices because I’m rebellious like that.
Add the sea salt and any of the herbs if using, and stir to combine.
(I used cinnamon sticks, and found it easier to just place them in the jar)
Scoop lemons into the jar, squishing down with a wooden spoon each time to really pack them in there. You want them really tight.
Keep scooping and squishing until all the lemons are in the jar.
Juice the last two lemons and pour the juice over the lemons in the jar. You should have a brine that covers the lemons. If you didn’t end up with enough liquid, try squishing the lemons down more, or use enough filtered water to cover (I had to use a touch of filtered water on mine). Leave an inch of head space for expansion.
I put a layer of plastic wrap over the opening of my jar, and then screwed on the lid. This will stop the acid from eating away at the jar lid.
For the first week you will need to burp your jar to relieve any pressure that has built up inside. Just quickly unscrew the lid and lift it off, then put it back on. Simple as that. I did that twice a day for the first 3 days then only once a day for the remaining 4 days.
About once a day for the first week you should gently shake the jar to move the salt around. I did this after burping the jars.
After 2 weeks, try them and see what you think. The longer they sit at room temperature the more their flavour will change and develop. If you are happy with the flavour, move them to cold storage (either cold cellar, or refrigerator), or let them sit longer at room temperature to adjust the flavour more.

A Few Notes:

  • Sea Salt is very important to use in this recipe. The process that we are using to preserve these lemons is lacto fermentation, or the growing of good bacteria (probitiotics). Regular salt is too harsh and will kill the bacteria. Use a good quality sea salt for best results. (I use Bob’s Red Mill Sea Salt that I purchase at my local Sobeys.)
  • Did I mention the importance of using organic lemons for this?
  • I put ours into the refrigerator at 2 weeks. They were the perfect blend of slightly sour, tangy and somewhat spicy (from the cinnamon).
The cool thing about preserved lemons is they become more tangy and less sour as time goes on. The rind becomes edible and not bitter at all. They also have lots of good bacteria from the lacto-fermentation process (like we talked about here, here, and here).
So as tough as us Canadians are, sometimes in a blizzard in the middle of February, you just need a little touch of preserved citrus sunshine. It’s ok to admit it.


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