Lemon Preserve: Lemons + Salt + Patience

By Jennifer Huang

Have you ever seen “patience” listed as a recipe ingredient? No? Well you’ll need it, as this simple recipe promises a unique and versatile flavor burst that is well worth the wait.

I have seen lemon preserves in Middle Eastern grocery stores before—usually as unappealing lemons floating in questionable liquid—and never gave them a second thought. Thankfully, my brother recently enlightened me on what lemon preserves are after he saw a recipe posted by our favorite Taiwanese food blogger, Karen Hsu.

Lemon preserves aren’t new to the scene: The earliest reference to this ingredient was in an Arab Mediterranean recipe from the 11th century, according to the Encyclopedia of Kitchen History. Today, you will find lemon preserves in many Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisines.

So what’s the hype? Well, many recipe bloggers describe how the fermenting process brings the flavor and fragrance of lemon to an unimaginable level. Used in recipes for salad dressing, couscous, chicken and many other dishes, lemon preserve is a versatile ingredient sure to liven up any dish. Another beautiful thing about lemon preserve—it is simple to make and requires few ingredients. However, one of them, as Serious Eats has put it, is patience.

Here is the recipe translated and adapted from Karen Hsu’s blog:

Lemon Preserve

Duration: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 lemons
  • 200 g salt (approximately ¾ cup)
  • 3-4 whole pieces of bay leaves (optional)
  • Some black pepper (optional)
  • Patience

Lemon Preserve Picture (1)

Steps:

  • Sterilize glass jars. (My brother and I boiled mason jars in water for 10 minutes.)
  • Cut six lemons into ¼ inches slices.
  • Layer salt and lemon slices in the jar. Put some salt into the jar first, then a lemon slice, then salt, etc.
  • After layering, crush the bay leaves and sprinkle both the bay leaves and black pepper into the jar (optional).
  • Squeeze juice from the other six lemons into the jar.
  • Seal the jar and put it in the refrigerator.
  • Wait for a month. (Yes. A month, but it will transform your life after that month.)

Disclaimer: I have used this recipe, but have not tasted it myself (it won’t be ready until September 14, and is currently fermenting in Houston). However, after reading a myriad of articles about lemon preserve, I think it is a promising addition to anyone’ shelf.

But… since my patience is wearing thin, I have found Moroccan restaurants in Somerville and Charleston that have lemon preserve dishes I am dying to try. Join me if you are interested, because I shall be going there, very soon.

Jennifer Huang is a first-year FPAN student. She worked as a dietitian in Houston and is interested in the economics and trade of food and food safety at the international level.

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