When you have too many lemons, preserve them.

I bought a house last year for its property size. Along with that perk were lots of fruit trees. There is a lemon tree that I thought looked very peasly. It was short and fat. The leaves looked a little sickly. I had no idea whether it would produce, so I made sure to keep it watered.

My friend told me that I would be in luck, because right next to it was a lime tree. So, it could cross pollinate with another citrus tree. There were lots of bees buzzing around, and I was excited to see how many I would get!

I was thinking about 6 lemons would grow on the tree. Six was the amount of the lime tree, but the lemon tree gave me 48! I couldn't believe my luck. Now what do I do with all of these? I can, of course, leave them on the tree until I need them. They'll continue to grow, but it was now November and there was a frost coming. I've never had a lemon tree before, and I was afraid I'd lose them all overnight like I knew I would with my zucchini, with the temperature below freezing. So, I picked them all!

I gave a few away, used a few others for lemon, caper pasta, but mainly I wanted to preserve them. I got the idea from Joanne Weir's cooking show on PBS's Create channel (ya know, the channel you can watch without paying for cable). I looked up the instructions online and they were surprisingly simple.

Preserved Lemons Recipe/How to

  • Cut top and bottom pieces from lemon
  • Do not cut all the way through - cut into quarters leaving 1/2 inch - 1 inch left intact on all lemons
  • Heavily salt the insides that you just cut
  • Start placing lemons in preserving jar. I reused a few tomato sauce jars, but it's best to use something like a mason jar, because you're supposed to periodically flip them over, and the reused sauce jars are more likely to leak
  • As you're packing the jar, press the lemons down so that the juice squeezes out. You want to have juice engulfing the lemons up to and over the top lemon of the jar.
  • If the lemons aren't completely covered in juice, use a lemon just for it's juice so there's no lemon rinds uncovered
  • Pour a nice 1/2" layer of salt on the top, and close the jar.
  • Now the rest I'm not positive about, but this is what I did. I placed them in the back of my dark cupboard for 2 weeks.
  • Then I put them in the back of the fridge for 4 months, turning the jars upside down every 2 - 3 weeks

lemons preserved with sea salt in a mason jar

I ended up with 5 jars, gave 3 away to friends, and four months later, the rind is so soft you can barely tell which part is rind and which part is flesh when you pull one out of the jar. I got to say they were organic since they came off of my tree, and I never sprayed it with anything. They might even be GMO, but I won't know unless I try to regrow the seeds.

I just tried my first recipe about a week ago. My first dish with the preserved lemons was a success! I had to Google preserved lemon recipes, because I had no idea what to do with them. Everything I found was some kind of Moroccan chicken recipe. I found a few with beef, but I didn't have any meat in the fridge so I kept searching and finally. I found a recipe with artichokes, and it called for a parsley pesto.

So, I made an artichoke, parsley, preserved lemon stir fry to go over rice. I shared it with friends, and we ended up eating it on home fried tortilla chips like a dip. It was SO good that I had to make it a second time the next week. Afterall, I had lots of preserved lemon to use up. This time I tried to make the perfect rice which my friend explained to me how to not make it clumpy, and I added water chestnut and mushroom to the stir fry. I used too much oil, but it still turned out really well. I'll be able to better judge the oil next time. I'll post the recipe soon.

Here's a better picture of the preserved lemons in a reused sauce jar. This is once I opened the jar and started using them after waiting for 4 months.

Opened jar of preserved lemons with soft rinds ready to cook with