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How to Preserve or Pickle Lemons

Preserving or Pickling Lemons is an Ancient Food Preservation Technique that Preceded Modern Bottling, Freeze-drying, Canning or Freezing. In Ancient Times Lemons were Pickled in a Mixture of Lemon Juice and Salt & This is Still Used Today to Produce Flavoursome, Juicy Lemons for Use in Tagines, Stews, Sauces, Canapes, Meats, Fish & Salads 


How to preserve or pickle lemonsHow to Preserve or Pickle Lemons – Recipe / Instructions

  1. Sterilise a sealable jar in a very hot dishwasher or oven and allow to cool
  2. Take wax free lemons (scrub to remove wax if need be), cut off stem and base, then cut to your
  3. preferred size (I prefer thin slices but some recipes recommend cutting into quarters) 
  4. Place lemons in the jar with approx half a teaspoon of salt per lemon
  5. Push the lemons down to fill as tightly as possible
  6. Add lemon juice to at least half fill the jar 
  7. Lid the jar and shake to mix salt and lemon
  8. Shake every few days during the first few weeks to ensure the lemons pickle in the preservation brine
  9. Leave for at least a month for the pickling or preservation process to take effect.











What’s the Difference Between Pickled and Preserved Lemons? 

As far as the average cook or chef is concerned there are no differences between pickling and preserving. The only differences are technical. Preservation of fruit and vegetables can take place when salt or acids such as vinegar are added. When preserving lemons we normally use both an acid (lemon juice) and salt. So if we are pedantic we are doing both at the same time. But it doesn’t really matter as the result is what we are after and it is tasty and useful in the kitchen.




Where are Pickled or Preserved Lemons Commonly Used?

Lemons are preserved in many areas of the world and are used in many cuisines, even where lemons do not commonly grow. For example, pickled lemons are a Moroccan delicacy where they add a salty lemon flavour to tagines. Preserved lemons are also used in India as well as other regions within South Asia and North Africa. 

And they are not unknown in the UK. Recipe books going back as far ago as 1786 contain lemon pickling recipes.  The experienced English housekeeper was written by Elizabeth Raffald and advised that lemons needed to be dried before adding white wine vinegar. 

John Farley’s book, The London art of cookery and domestic housekeeper’s complete assistant: uniting the principles of elegance, taste, and economy: and adapted to the use of servants, and families of every description were published in 1826 and included a similar recipe.

Other books with early 19th century preserved lemon recipes include the 1826 published A new system of domestic cookery: founded upon principles of economy, and adapted to the use of private families


Preserved Lemon Recipes 

Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives Recipe


1.5 lb (700 g) lamb, cut into 2-inch cubes

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, put through a garlic press or chopped very fine

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon Ras El Hanout, or your preferred spice mix 

1 handful of parsley and cilantro sprigs, tied into a bunch

2.5 cups water

1 large handful of black red or green olives 

1 preserved lemon, quartered and seeds removed


Tagine Preparation and Cooking 

Finely chop the lemon having first removed any flesh or seeds 

Mix lemons with the meat, onions, garlic, spices and half of the olive oil 

Add the rest of the oil to a tagine and add the meat and onion mix.

Add the water, and cover the tagine with its lid

Place tagine in a medium oven (160 C) and cook for about 2 hours. Check occasionally and add more water if it is drying out

Add the lemon, olives and more water if required. 

Continue cooking for about an hour or until the meat is very tender. 


Serve with bread or rice to soak up the sauce.


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