Saints Preserve Us!

Back from New Orleans, where the Saints are the team of choice, we made it to Tucson just in time to pick all the lemons off our tree before The Big Freeze. All our neighbors did the same and, together, we ended up with a slew of lemons that had to be used quickly! Yvonne is making marmalade with hers. My first project is making Moroccan preserved lemons.

Moroccan preserved lemons are a great condiment to keep in your refrigerator to brighten all variety of dishes year-round. Mostly, you use only the preserved pith and zest, but there are a few recipes that call for the flesh, as well.

Aside from the Moroccan recipes that call for them - tagines, mostly - they are wonderful used with fish, seafood, chicken, lamb, vegetable dishes and salads. They add a sour-salty quality to things (akin to a pickle) but with a bit more sweetness, zing, and lot of flavor!

The best part? They are really simple to make. I don't recommend buying commercially-preserved lemons, as they often have preservatives other than salt that give the lemons a harsh fizziness. When making them, I always use organic, untreated, unwaxed lemons.

To make a quart-sized jar of four preserved lemons, you will also need to use a lot of lemon juice. Before juicing them, take off the zest in long, wide strips using a vegetable peeler to make limoncello (recipe coming next week). This means no part of the lemon was wasted.

The only other ingredient for our Moroccan lemons is salt. Some recipes have you top your lemons with olive oil, while others mix the lemon juice with water. I think the water is for those who don’t have enough lemons to make enough juice. And the oil? Well, I am not sure… but, by adding oil, you add the possibility of the lemons becoming rancid.

Right now, the whole house smells of lemons from making both limoncello and preserved lemons.

In addition to lemons, we picked more than five dozen oranges, and all our chile peppers. The peppers (habaƱero, chiletepin and Thai) are all drying on racks and screens so we can use them during the winter. I cooked two pounds of oranges to make citrus almond cake. I've given some away, and now am looking for other uses. Any ideas?

I can't wait for the month to fly by, so I can start using the preserved lemons! I imagine my tagine of chicken, olives and preserved lemons will be first on the menu. Luckily, the limoncello wll be done and ready to drink next week while I wait for the preserved lemons.

So, pucker up, cyber friends, and make yourself some of these wonderful preserved lemons.

~ David

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

8-12 organic lemons, washed and dried
3/4 cup kosher salt, approximately

Wash lemons well and dry them. Cut 4 lemons into quarters from the top (blossom end), being careful not to cut all the way through. Pack 2 tablespoons salt into the cuts of each lemon and place them, packed as tightly as possible, into a 1-quart sterilized jar with non-metallic lid.

Zest the remaining lemons and reserve for limoncello or another use.

Squeeze juice from the zested lemons, removing the seeds or pips as you go. Add another 2 tablespoons of salt to the jar and top off with the lemon juice, making sure the lemons are completely covered. Close the jar with and set aside in a cool, dark place (the refrigerator works fine) for one month. Shake the lemon jars a couple of times a week during the month to distribute the salt. 

Preserved lemons will keep for 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.

Makes 4 preserved lemons.


  1. these look amazing... the back of my mouth started watering just looking at them. beautiful!

  2. Thanks, Ahu - I just wish I didn't have to wait a whole month!

  3. I am so lucky that I had my mum to make me both these lemony treats this year...I am going to have to get cracking on my own when they are in season again here. I don't know where a cook would be without lemons....this looks stunning David!

  4. Wow, Anna - lucky you to have a mother to make and give these to you! Do you ever just pass her recipes you want to eat, but haven't had time to try yet? Seems like a good symbiotic relationship...

  5. One thing I´m really, really jealous of is people who have fruit and citrus trees in their backyard...! I already washed a glass jar with a plastic lid so I´ll be making these tomorrow. And the lemon strips will become limoncello. This has got to be the best duo ever! By the way, a friend made `mandarinello´ with mandarinas (tangerines) and I might say it´s even better than limoncello. Maybe I can make preserved tangerines and see how they turn out...

  6. Paula - I do love having citrus at our fingertips at this time of year. I will have to try the mandarin version... I think that would be wonderful!

  7. Make them tonight and plan your Moroccan dinner party for mid-February!

  8. Hi David,
    We happen to have preserved lemons in our fridge from my sister-in-law and her Morrocan husband. Now that I am back from California, we will make a chicken dish--you had a post earlier on chicken with olives and preserved lemons...right? I know you mentioned the dish in this post.

    Your recipe makes the lemons look so easy that we will have to make some for future dishes! If my brother and family are reading this, please send me some of your home-grown lemons from Southern California!

  9. Hi David,

    I love chicken tagine! The combination of preserved lemons, dried fruit (abricots?) and chicken is sublime. I can't wait to make the lemons so my hankering for tangine can be satisfied. Thanks for the motivation!

  10. If there's one flavour that makes Moroccan cuisine unique it has to be preserved lemons. I've never made them yet like dishes they're used in. Sadly my partner can't stand preserved lemons so I never get the chance to cook with them. So sad.

  11. I just bought a bag of organic lemons - I think this is a perfect way to use some of them!

  12. Susan - I don't think I ever posted the tagine because I took the photos at night under incandescent lights. It looked awful. I might have sent it to you, or perhaps it was in recip(e)rocity. I hope you family sends lemons!

    Towny - the Moroccans really knew how to combine flavors in their tagines. The ones with either apricots or prunes are amazing!

    John - that is sad indeed. I guess you need to enjoy your preserved lemons in all your restaurant adventures, eh?

    Amy - welcome to Cocoa & Lavender! Hope you enjoy your lemons!

  13. I am on tenterhooks here waiting for the limoncello recipe...

    (and also a little envious of your climate - we can only dream of a lemon tree in the garden!)

  14. Only a couple more days, Ruth! Yes, we are lucky to have lemon, orange and lime trees - although the lemons are so frost sensitive I think we won't have a crop next year due to this year's frosts.

  15. Hi David,
    Just to follow up on my earlier comment, I thought I would let you know that I found your recipe for tagine chicken and we made it WITH the preserved lemons from Lisa! Excellent! You must share with your readers--make it on a sunny day! Thanks for the inspiration!

  16. Okay, have to add something else: last year, about the same time I think, you published a recipe for citrus almond cake. I made it then and I just made it again--with grapefruit and lemon! This I would mention this because this cake is yet another way to "use" one's extra lemons!

  17. I will definitely be posting on the chicken tagine soon! It is so tastyZ,

    And I love the combination of grapefruit and lemon for the cake - bet it has a nice marmalade-y taste!

  18. Our recipes are similar but yours is so much better looking than mine. I must practice I guess. GREG

    1. Maybe it's your lemons, Greg? We use a really thick-skinned lemon (Lisbon). I can't imagine yours aren't perfect!


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