Chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives prepared at a cooking class at the Atlas Kasbah near Agadir.

It always seems to catch me by surprise. Before I realize it we have managed to find ourselves in the midst of the holiday season with tasks of getting a Christmas tree, wrapping presents and baking cookies taking up what ever spare time we can find.

I love it. Everything about this season fills me with joy. The generosity that abounds, the daily question of “how many days until Christmas?” from my very eager children, and the excitement of seeking that perfect gift.

This year we’ve decided to go homemade. I’m thrilled and overwhelmed with possibilities. My mission is to create a gift that is not only homemade but also very appreciated and will be used.

I’m pretty excited about this homemade gift from the kitchen. It’s unique, it’s incredibly delicious, easy to make and beautiful to receive. For me it carries with it memories of my time in Morocco. It took a visit to the country for me to fully embrace this ingredient but now that I’ve jumped on board I’m making up for lost time.

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Preserved lemon is one of those flavors that is hard to distinguish but you’re glad it’s there. Both tart and sour but not overly so, floral without a soapy or perfumed aftertaste, a truly unique flavor that any one who loves food would be delighted to add to their pantry.

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After only a few minutes of work sitting before you is a beautiful jar filled with vibrant lemons. The lemons themselves won’t be ready for thirty days but the recipient can spend that time pouring over recipes looking for ideas on how to use them. Myself? I like them on almost anything. Even Delancey has been known to throw them on pizzas. I added them to my prune and sausage stuffing for Thanksgiving and everyone seemed quite pleased. Tomorrow I’m planning a fennel salad, with green olives and preserved lemons. No special occasion, just my lunch and I’m pretty excited about it.

Here’s to hoping these lemons actually end up as gifts for someone other than myself.



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Preserved Lemons


adapted from Paula WolfertThe Food of Morocco

5 lemons

1/4 cup salt, more if desired

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

5 coriander seeds

2 bay leaves

Have ready a sterile 1-pint canning jar.

Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the interior of the lemon, then reshape the fruit.

Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of the mason jar. Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt, and the optional spices between layers. Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons. (If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice — Leave some air space before sealing the jar.

Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. Let ripen for 30 days. To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under running water, removing and discarding the pulp, if desired — and there is no need to refrigerate after opening. Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year.

Gently shake the jar each day to distribute the salt.

* I adore these WECK jars for canning. Use the lemons and the recipient is still left with a great gift.

32 Responses to “Preserved lemons: to give or keep”

  1. Stephanie S

    I love preserved lemons and I love to gift crafts and homemade food for the holidays, so this is perfect! And goodness, those WECK jars are superb. Thanks again, hope you are having a great holiday season.

  2. Sara

    My Goodness! I love this idea. I love homemade gifts as well, and I’m always looking for new inspiration. This year I had planned to venture into roasted lemon territory, but this might be better. It seems simpler. Thanks for another great and unique idea for my non-sweet loving friends!

  3. la domestique

    I’m obsessed with preserved lemons and enjoy them on just about anything. To me, they act like salt or seasoning in a dish, adding brightness and enlivening other flavors. I especially enjoy preserved meyer lemons. Great gift idea.

  4. Piper

    I really need to make these, I adore preserved lemons. My Mom used to make these, I thought she was crazy, until I tried them. Thanks for sharing your beautiful Morocco trip with us.

  5. SallyBR

    I’ve made preserved lemons only once, it’s an ingredient like no other, I must make it again

    beautiful post, loved the photos too

  6. Victoria

    I’ve never cooked with preserved lemons…sounds like a fantastic way to bring brightness to a meal on the coldest winter day.

  7. AmyDishes

    Love this post! We have a lemon tree in the courtyard of our new apartment building, and I’ve been storing up ideas on how to use them. I’d flagged another preserved lemon recipe, but the addition of spices here sounds much more delicious. I just wish I could easily travel back to Seattle with all this glassware… Suspect this’ll be a gift just for our household. 🙂

  8. J'Marinde Shephard

    Mut one use a special kind of salt for this or can plain Iodized table salt be used. Alos, how does noe use these in cooking? Does one slice them up or throw in pieces? Never used these and I am intrigued. After one begins usiong these must they be refrigerated or are they kept in the jar to be used a little at a time? How long can the be kep=t? Any special instructions? Thank you for this inspiring recipe.

  9. Amelia

    I LOVE preserved lemons and make sure I always have a jar full. Funny that you’ve decided to give them as a Christmas gift; I did that a couple of years ago when friends wondered about them, along with instructions on how to keep the jar going and a tagine recipe. Those are the best gifts; I’m sure they’ll be much enjoyed and appreciated.

  10. Helen T

    These look lovely, simple to make and just so delicious and useful to have tucked away in the cupboard. Great for bringing forth a taste of the sunshine in the middle of winter.

  11. Faith Nelson

    Marinde – the recipes I’ve seen for preserving lemons all call for Kosher, pickling, or sea salt. I suspect the iodized would change the flavour of the lemon subtly, and for anyone with an iodine sensitivity it would be unpleasant. Pickling/canning salt is very fine and readily dissolves, though since this is being sealed in a water bath any of them should very easily dissolve into a brine.

    Keeping them – I don’t usually use brined vegetables or fruits, so I don’t have a good rule for how long they’ll keep once opened. I’d close the jar back up and put it in the fridge once opened, though. Salt is good at inhibiting the growth of nasty things, but refrigeration will help with that also, and better safer. 🙂

  12. Abigail Krone

    I am really looking forward to making these. Do you actually can them in a water bath? I don’t seem to be able to find that step in the directions, but I’m guessing that’s what should happen. Thanks! LOVE your site!

  13. Amy

    I was wondering the same thing about canning. I didn’t see any canning instructions in the recipe. I just made a few and screwed the top on the jars….we’ll see how they turn out!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Amy – no canning needed. There is so much salt and acid. Mine just sit on the counter and get a gentle shake every day or two. When you go to use them just use very clean utensils to get them out and they shouldn’t need refrigeration. You can, however, if it makes you feel better.

  14. Rose

    Kia ora from New Zealand! Do you have the recipe for that amazing looking Moroccan chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives? Thanks and love your blog.


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