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Salt, sharp and citrus – lemons preserve us.

June 17, 2014

How to make preserved lemons - My Custard PieDo yourself a favour and make some preserved lemons today. By writing this I’m joining the throngs of posts dedicated to stuffing lemons with salt and bunging them in jars to luxuriate into a yielding, candied mass, but you’ll thank me for it – I promise.

I think the world is divided into people who like telling people what to do and those who couldn’t care less what others do if it doesn’t have any impact on them. I’m most firmly in the last camp proving that my exultation to follow the few simple steps below is heartfelt.

In a few weeks time you’ll have an ingredient to transform stews, partner with fish and lamb to a level you didn’t dream possible and make salads so lip-smacking that teenagers will demand more (this happened – no joke).

There are versions of this, usually called Moroccan, which add spices such as cinnamon sticks, dried chillies, coriander seeds, bay leaves and cloves. In my quest for citrus-imbued heaven I prefer the clean, sharp flavour of the unadulterated lemon and salt combination.

Jars of preserved lemons make wonderful gifts. Don’t be tempted to dip into them for at least a month but then they can sit in your fridge for about a year (although once hooked I’d be amazed if you manage to keep them this long). I’m going to suggest some recipes and uses – but you’ll have to wait until I’m back from my annual UK travels.

Do try to find organic, unwaxed lemons if you can. As this is impossible here in Dubai, I give them a good scrub in some soapy water and then rinse well.

How to make preserved lemons - My Custard Pie

Preserved lemons

  • Servings: 4-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preserved lemons


  • 8 lemons
  • 4 heaped tablespoons sea salt

Makes 1 x 500g jar (easily doubled)


  1. First clean your jar – use the Kilner-style/Mason type. Remove the rubber seal and put it through the hot cycle of the dishwasher; or wash in hot soapy water and then dry them in a low oven (140 C) for about 10 minutes. Be careful of the metal bits as they get really hot. Replace the seals once cool enough to handle.
  2. Wash the lemons (as above) if necessary. Cut a lemon almost in half, from the point to the stalk without severing it completely. Repeat on the opposite side so that the lemon is almost in quarters lengthways but joined at the stalk end. Repeat with 3 more lemons.
  3. Put a tablespoon of salt into the cut insides of each lemon and pack them into the jar. You can wedge a cocktail stick into the neck of the jar to keep them wedged down if you like.
  4. Close the jar and leave for a couple of days until juice has started to run from the lemons. Squeeze the remaining lemons and pour the juice into the jar so the fruit is completely covered. Leave in a cool, dark place for at least one month. The lemons will become soft and slightly brown. Once you open the jar store in the fridge for up to a year.
  5. To use, remove the pulp from the lemon and slice or dice the rind and add to a variety of dishes. The salty juice can be used as a condiment too.

Let’s rendezvous in September and chat about what we’re going to do with these beauties. Sneak preview: mashed potato, olives, chicken, fish, tagines, salads and even a cocktail.


  1. June 17, 2014 9:47 am

    They look absolutely delicious! I will give them a try – since my neighbour lent me her tagine I have developed a constant craving for lemons…

  2. June 17, 2014 10:45 am

    I believe the lemon preserves are used in Margaritas in Qbara !!! Looks good.. I love lemons!

  3. glamorous glutton permalink
    June 17, 2014 10:46 am

    You’ve made me all enthusiastic about preserved lemons. I’m off to get my Kilner jar and waiting for your recipes. GG

  4. June 17, 2014 11:03 am

    I love to cook with preserved lemons. I’ll have to make some of that soon again…



  5. June 17, 2014 11:17 am

    Love this post sally. Going to make some this weekend. Will report back!

  6. June 17, 2014 12:33 pm

    I’m holding on to an image of my two year old demanding salad! Your pictures are stunning Sally and I am one of those that uses preserved lemons in the Moroccan way. I think it’s time to give your simple and clean recipe a go, I’m sure I will love it x

  7. nancy@jamjnr permalink
    June 17, 2014 1:39 pm

    I’m liking the sound of that cocktail!

  8. June 17, 2014 2:11 pm

    I love a lemon… one of my top 10 ingredients in the kitchen for sure. I’ve never had a go at preserving them and really must rectify this after reading your wonderful post. Love lip-smacking ingredients… mmmmmm

  9. June 17, 2014 2:47 pm

    I’ve never made, or tried, preserved lemons, but your pictures are so amazing and it sounds so easy that I’m definitely going to try it.

  10. June 17, 2014 3:01 pm

    I’ve never tried, nor made, preserved lemons, but your post makes me want to! My children are all big lemon fans (although the youngest can’t stop calling them melons) so I bet they’d love them preserved too.

  11. June 17, 2014 3:06 pm

    I’m ashamed to say I once bought a jar of Belazu preserved lemons and kept them in my fridge for over 12 months before chucking away. I never really got into how to use them but this was a long time ago before I knew better!

  12. June 17, 2014 3:50 pm

    One day soon I am going to make these beautiful lemons using your recipe. I have preserved lemons on my list of things to try and now I am encouraged. Lovely post.

  13. June 17, 2014 4:20 pm

    Your post has finally inspired me to make my own preserved lemons Sally. I love them in salads and with grilled chicken too!

  14. ramblingtart permalink
    June 17, 2014 4:29 pm

    A dear friend gave me a jar of these last year, and they were scrumptious! I will have to make some myself post haste. ๐Ÿ™‚ Beautiful!

  15. sarahjmir permalink
    June 17, 2014 5:19 pm

    I am going to try these – we attempted them two years back but it didn’t work out so well!

  16. Lauren Hairston permalink
    June 17, 2014 6:49 pm

    I just bought some new jars to make pickled cabbage so I may have to add to my preserving itinerary! Can’t wait to see how you use the preserved lemons. I’ve only seen them in tagine recipes before.

  17. Theresa permalink
    June 17, 2014 8:49 pm

    I went out back to the lemon tree and harvested enough lemons to start my first jar. They are all prepped and in the jar sitting on the counter now for a few days. I went ahead and juiced the remainder and have the juice in the refrigerator awaiting use to top off. Can’t wait for the recipes! I know these are going to be good!

    • June 18, 2014 12:42 pm

      Wow! What a wonderful picture you paint – and I have lemon envy now truly. I bet the scent is amazing.

  18. Fishfingers for tea permalink
    June 17, 2014 11:04 pm

    Beautiful photographs. I adore lemons and am never without them but I don’t think I’ve ever used preserved lemon, let alone preserved them myself. Definitely one to try!

    • June 18, 2014 12:41 pm

      I get very annoyed if I run out of lemons. Having a jar of these in the fridge means that it’s never too drastic.

  19. andreamynard permalink
    June 18, 2014 1:23 am

    I love preserved lemons but ridiculously haven’t made them myself for ages. Your enthusiasm and beautiful pics are urging me to fill a jar or two though. Looking forward to your ideas of what to do with them. And hope you have a fab time in UK.

    • June 18, 2014 12:40 pm

      I am so ready to leave steamy 39 C – Gifford’s Circus booked, Cheltenham Music Fest, Stroud Farmer’s Market – and a big walk over Cleeve Hill. Can’t wait to get to the Cotswolds.

  20. June 18, 2014 2:05 am

    I can’t wait to see what all you do with these. There is quite a buzz going on about preserving lemons. They sure make a pretty jar.

    • June 18, 2014 12:39 pm

      They look prettier in the process than when preserved but then the taste makes up for it.

  21. June 18, 2014 5:02 am

    I usually fall in the “couldnโ€™t care less what others do if it doesnโ€™t have any impact on them” camp, too. But I appreciate your deviation from the norm. It’s been a long time since I’ve made preserved lemons and I should remedy that.

    • June 18, 2014 12:39 pm

      Cheers Michelle – you should ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. June 18, 2014 10:01 am

    I’m mad for preserved lemons….I use them all the time….nice post:)

    • June 18, 2014 12:38 pm

      Thanks Roger – I have a serious lemon addiction.

  23. June 18, 2014 12:09 pm

    Yes! I’ve been looking at our laden backyard lemon tree and thinking exactly the same thing! In our house, I’m the only one who likes them, but I REALLY like them. If you lived closer, I’d drop you a bag of our unwaxed, unsprayed bush lemons! The big tip I got years ago was that the lemons are ready when the white rind/pith turns translucent.. xxx

    • June 18, 2014 12:38 pm

      Good tip Celia. I would love your lemons (lemon envy).

  24. June 18, 2014 2:22 pm

    I love how a tiny bit of lemon preserve can elevate a bowl of fish curry. Never thought of adding them to stews or salads! My grandmother’s aunt makes preserves and pickles for us whenever we are in India and I carry them to Dubai. I’ve never tried to make them myself and your post has definitely inspired me to. xx

  25. June 18, 2014 2:49 pm

    Did someone say cocktails? I’m in. ๐Ÿ™‚ beautiful pictures – perfect for summer!

  26. June 18, 2014 3:00 pm

    love how beautifully simplistic these are to make. Used up all my lemons to make limoncello this spring so will wait for the next harvest

  27. June 18, 2014 3:40 pm

    They look superb! Love the photos and colours of the lemons. Love the flavour of sour and salt – so much zing! ๐Ÿ˜€

  28. June 18, 2014 4:30 pm

    This is one of my favourite condiments to make ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. June 19, 2014 8:18 pm

    I made lemon preserves in February of this year but have only used them once, can’t wait to see what you prepare with these, This is my first time visiting your blog and it is lovely.

  30. June 19, 2014 10:07 pm

    We love preserved lemons, and I have even got my 78 year old MIL hooked after I gave her some for Christmas. This beautiful post reminds me that I need to make some more very soon. Have a wonderful trip ‘home’ and hope to see what you are up via your Insta posts

  31. June 20, 2014 10:11 am

    Oh yes I do love a good jar of preserved lemons. I have to admit it took me ages to actually make some myself and like you when I did I thought “why did it take me so long?” I’ve always added extra flavour like you mentioned – cinnamon, coriander seeds and also garam masala spices. This now gives me an excuse to try it pure and unadorned.

  32. June 26, 2014 1:05 pm

    Yes, I wanted to make them for ages & now, I see your glorious post! It seems very easy to make & must be very delicious & easy to devour too! I already come up with several tasty ideas! ๐Ÿ˜‰


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