How to make preserved lemons

Traditionally used in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisines, preserved lemons give an authentic citrus flavour to tagines, and can also be used to add mellow lemony notes to salads and pasta dishes. Once made, they will need to be stored for a month to allow the intense flavours to develop. Find out how to make these pickled treats with our simple step-by-step recipe.

  1. Sterilise the jar

    Preheat the oven to gas 1, 140°C, fan 120°C. In a bowl of hot soapy water, thoroughly wash a 1-litre clip-top jar with a rubber seal. Place the jar in the oven to dry completely, then boil the rubber seal in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to kill any bacteria (do not place this in the oven as it will damage). When the jar is dry, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. While the jar is still warm, sprinkle 2 tsp salt into the bottom – this will keep it sterile.

  2. Prepare the lemons

    Place 8 small unwaxed lemons in a large bowl, pour over cold water to cover, then drain. Cut off the stalk ends and slice the lemons lengthways into quarters, leaving the last 2½ cm intact so the fruits stay in one piece.

  3. Fill the jar

    Sprinkle the inside of a lemon with 1 tsp sea salt and place in the jar, pushing down firmly. Sprinkle over a few peppercorns and 1 tsp salt before repeating with the next lemon. Continue until all the fruit is tightly packed. This allows the juices to be released. Now squeeze over the juice of 4 small lemons.

  4. Store

    Making sure the jar is full, seal tightly and turn a few times to allow the juice and salt to mix. Store in a cool dark place for 1 month.

  5. Remove the flesh

    Open the jar and remove a lemon. Scrape out the insides and discard. Only the skins and pith are used as the insides are mostly inedible due to the salt.

  6. Serve and enjoy

    The skin and pith can be used whole to flavour tagines, chopped finely for pasta dishes, or whizzed with oil to make a salad dressing. The preserved lemons will keep for up to a year.