Sunshine in a jar (Photo: Emma Boyd)

Recipe: Preserved lemons

Got a surplus of lemons? Make these and you’ll be thanking yourself in those months when they’re few and far between. 

Like little rays of sunshine, lemons are such a fantastically versatile fruit suited perfectly to both sweet and savoury dishes. Their flavour is equally wonderful on its own as it is married with other flavours to enhance and complement dishes. We are fortunate enough to have a Meyer lemon tree in our garden that fruits with such an abundance it provides us with fruit almost year round. However, should the supply dry up then I always have a bottle of these preserved lemons on hand. They’re wonderful in tagines, stirred through couscous, in salads, dips and even dressings. The recipe below is more of a guide: the amount of salt required to stuff your lemons will vary from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon or so depending on how large they are. And remember, don’t hold back when packing them into the jars – roll your sleeves up and really push them in there.    

PRESERVED LEMONS

Makes 2 x 1 litre jars

  • about 20-25 lemons (the ones I used were on the smaller side)
  • salt
  • 4 bay leaves

Photo: Emma Boyd

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Sterilise your jars by washing them with very hot soapy water, rinse, then pour in boiling water. Swirl around then tip out and leave to air dry (don’t wipe out as you may introduce bacteria to the jar). Do the same with the lids. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon salt into the bottom of each jar. Take a lemon and cut it from the top down, stopping 2cm from the bottom.  Do the same in the opposite direction so that you have cut the lemon into quarters, leaving the bottom 2cm intact. 

Pry the lemon open and sprinkle in 2 heaped teaspoons of salt. If your lemons are large, they’ll need more like 1 tablespoon to fill them. Once stuffed, put the lemon in the jar, squeezing down on it so it begins to release its juices. 

Repeat with the remaining lemons, adding two bay leaves per jar. As you pack the lemons into the jars, push down hard on them so there aren’t any large gaps between the fruit. Once you have filled the jar, bang them down on a flat surface to get rid of any air bubbles and then if necessary, top up the jars with extra lemon juice so it’s covering the fruit.  

Seal and leave in a cool, dark place for at least 1 month before using. Every few days for the first week or so, gently tip the jar upside down a few times.         


The Spinoff’s food content is brought to you by Freedom Farms. They believe talking about food is nearly as much fun as eating it, and they’re excited to facilitate some good conversations around food provenance in Aotearoa New Zealand.


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