Morrocan Preserved Lemons (Hamad m’rakhad)

So, I will start with this.. If you work in kitchens like I do, do not try to be a hero and make this without wearing gloves (..like I did). The mixture will get into every, tiny, cut.

With that learning experience out of the way, Preserved Lemons are a condiment that is common to North African and Indian cuisine. It is also known as “country lemon”, “lemon pickle” or “leems”.

Simply put, the lemons are pickled in a brine of salt and their own juices; though sometimes various spices are added. The lemons can be used in anything from stews and salads to rice or salsa. Personally, I intend to use these for Moroccan dishes such as tagines.

  This project is not one of difficulty, but one of patience. The pickling process takes about a month for the lemons to be ready to use. Despite the long wait time, the task itself takes less than 10 minutes. Why not give it a try?


Morrocan Preserved Lemons

adapted from Paula Wolfert, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco (1973)

Ingredients:

5 Lemons (Meyer, preferred)**

1/4 cup Kosher or Sea salt**, more if needed

Optional Safi mixture:

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 to 6 coriander seeds
  • 3 to 4 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice, if necessary

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Have ready a sterile 1-pint canning jar.(See here)

 IMG_5650     IMG_5656 First, slice off either ends, as seen above. Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom,  and sprinkle salt on the interior of the lemon. Then, reshape the fruit.

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Place 1 teaspoon of salt on the bottom of the mason jar. Pack in the quarted/salted lemons and push them down, adding more salt/optional spices between the layers. You will want to press the lemons down with force to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons.

The most important thing in preserving lemons is to be certain they are completely covered with the salted lemon juice. If they aren’t, you may see a sort of lacy, white substance clinging to them. While ultimately harmless, (since it will be rinsed off before use) but it’s certainly not ideal.

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Next: The Tough Part.

Let the lemons ripen for 30 days in a dark place. Gently shake/rotate the jar every few days to re-distribute the salt. These do not need to be refrigerated, despite what some modernists may tell you. Preserved lemons will keep for up to a year, and the juice can be used 2-3 times over the course of that year.

To use: Rinse the excess salt from the lemons under running water, and separate the rind from the pulp/pith (you can either discard or use these for future dishes). Chop the preserved lemon peel according to your recipe’s needs. The pickling juices can be used for Bloody Marys, salad dressings, or even for other pickling projects.

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Bismillah!


             Tips:

    1. **Meyer lemons are the lemon of choice in Morocco and are especially ideal for preserving because they’re sweeter/less tart than other lemons and have a particularly wonderful flavor and aroma.  However, if you can’t find Meyer lemons you can use regular lemons such as Eureka or Lisbon.
    2. **If you use salt with iodine, it may ferment the lemons. Ultimately, you will be washing the lemons before use anyway, but this is a detail worthy of note.
    3.  Kosher or sea salt is what should be used in this recipe (or in any canning that involves salt really).

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