It’s peak citrus season right now, which likely means one of two things:

  • You’ve amassed a large pile of lemon halves after juicing them, which you can’t feed your composting worms.
  • That bulk supply of lemons you had all good intention of using is, you know…still waiting to be made into something. You’d totally juice them and freeze that zingy nectar, but your freezer is full of soup after you realised it’s a pretty rad shortcut to many other delicious things.

Well, either way, we have a 20 minute solution for you, and some easy ways to use it afterwards (turns out preserved lemon makes pretty much everything it touches taste better). Here’s our super flexible way to use up lots of lemons, or juiced lemons Recipe hugs to our co-founder Alex and long time Sydney volunteer Angie (who’s also instagramming conscientious cooking tips for us).

A super flexible and easy preserved lemon recipe

The stuff

  • Bunch of lemons (about 4 per 500ml jar), or juiced lemon/lime halves (ahem, excuse for a G&T party anyone?)
  • Australian Rock salt
  • Bunch of screw top jars (bonus points for re-using)
  • Optional: Herbs and spices like cardamom, bay leaves and cinnamon quills

The how to

Optional: to remove some of the bitterness from the lemon skin, break the pores of each lemon by running it along the fine edge of a grater (or serrated knife). Place lemons in a bowl of cold water. Replace the water daily and do this for 2-3 days (I actually did it for a week because ran out of time the weekend I planning on doing the preserving part).

Now on to the preserving.

Sterilise your jars by washing them in hot detergenty water then dry and heat in a 90 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

If using juiced lemon halves, skip this step. But if you’ve got fresh lemons on hand: Cut the top and bottom off each lemon. Placing a lemon on one of its cut off ends, cut it like you would if you were cutting 4 wedges but leave a cm of the skin joined together. This should give you a flower like shape that you can stuff with at least a tablespoon or two worth of salt into the lemon. I stuff the lemons with salt in a bowl to collect the juice when you top the jar up with once it’s full.

Place the lemon in the jar, sometimes this meant I split the lemon entirely to get it through the neck of the jar. Also place a bay leaf, cinnamon quill and some cardamom pods in as you go.

Top up with excess salt and lemon juice from your bowl in between lemons/lemon halves. Once all your jars are full, top up with boiling water.

Leave the jars for a few minutes to ensure all the air bubbles have escaped, then top with olive oil before putting the lids on.

Store them in a cool dark place for about 4 weeks. Then boom, salty lemony goodness!

what to do with spent lemons

What to do with your preserved lemons

Don’t just stop at tagine (although if you’re making some, we wouldn’t say no). Use the lemons (and any juices!) anywhere you could use a salty citrus kick, or a bit of vegan umami. Here are just a few ideas:

  • soups, stews and casseroles
  • couscous or quinoa salads (or any other salad)
  • mayonnaise, yoghurt, or creamy dressings
  • plain steamed rice
  • dips, relish or chutney
  • in place of fresh lemons in a roast chook or whole fish
  • in meatballs or with lentils or beans

Got a glut of something else? Here are more clever ways to turn extra food into lifesavers for dinner, and upcycle your leftovers into something luscious.

Image credits: Alexandra Iljadica, Zo Zhou

Zo Zhou

Zo Zhou

Zo is the National Communications Manager and will basically never shut up about vegetables.


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