Winter is prime lemon time! And an embarrassment of lemons means curd, cordial for summer and lots of jars of preserved lemons for you, your friends, and all the neighbours. Delicious, super easy, and makes good use of the harvest.
Wash your lemons and prepare some jars. On a plate (to catch the juice) remove any stems or damaged skin, and cut the lemons into quarters, stopping just shy of the base so that they remain intact. Do your best to get a good dessertspoon full of coarse salt into the centre of the lemon, give it a firm squeeze. Add a teaspoon of salt into the bottom of the jar and then squish the lemons in, piling each one on top and filling all the in-between spots as you go by really pressing them in snugly. It might be easier to work with halves, depending on their size and how big the jars are. Add a teaspoon of salt between the layers every now and then. You can also tuck in some spices as you go. Think North African flavours like cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, crushed cardamom pods, bay leaves or fresh chillies.
Leave just a small gap at the top of each jar, but make sure the lemons are sitting tightly under the juice. Top them up with more liquid if needed. You may need the juice of an extra lemon or two. Lids on and into the pantry with a reminder when the 6 weeks of waiting are over. I’ve been told you can speed up the process a bit by leaving them on a sunny shelf, you could give that a try if you are in a hurry. Share liberally with friends and family.
(Sterilise the washed jars by placing them in a hot oven for about 15 mins, then fill when they are cool to touch).
Hints and Tips
After a couple of days, check if the lemons are covered by juice, and top up as needed to ensure they’re submerged. They may have moved themselves as they soften about so wedge them under again if need be.
Store in the dark and wait 5-6 weeks before opening.
When using, give the lemons a quick rinse, compost the flesh (you can use it if you like a very strong flavour) and finely chop the rind to add to your dish.