Tuesday, March 11, 2014

sleeping lemons

Sometimes I'm a bit slow on the draw. Case in point: salt preserved lemons. I heard about these a long while back, and considering how simple they are to put together, you'd think I'd have made them by now. Well, the other day when I saw beautiful Meyer lemons at the store, I knew the time had come.

From what I gather, this method of preserving lemons is traditional to Morocco where they are called l'hamd marakad, which translates to "sleeping lemons." In French they are citrons confits. By whatever name you choose, they are used as a condiment alongside all sorts of dishes, and as a tangy, salty ingredient in others. I just know they're going to find their way onto the plate when we make Indian meals like dal, where they'd offer a twangy kick much like traditional mango or lime pickle. I could also see them adding a serious boost of flavor to hummus.

The method for making these is simple and requires only three things: a clean jar with an airtight lid, kosher or sea salt and lemons. Start by giving your lemons a good scrub, especially if they are not organic. Cut off both the stem and pointy end, then cut the lemon in half. Next, cut the halves into quarters, but not all the way through, so they are still connected. Sprinkle a thin layer of salt in the bottom of your jar and drop in the first half-lemon, peel side down. 

Sprinkle a generous layer of salt over the top of the lemon, and then with a muddler pack the lemon down into the jar, squeezing out as much juice as you can. Continue adding each half in this way, salting between each layer. When you've added every last one, top off the jar with another layer of salt and a final press with the muddler. Ideally the juice should reach to top of the uppermost lemon.

Now is when they live up to their name "sleeping lemons." They need to sit for 3 to 4 weeks until their rinds become soft enough to cut easily with a fork. Here is the part where you'll have to use your own judgement. Traditionally, salt preserved lemons are allowed to sit in a cupboard the entire time, with only an occasional shake to disturb their rest. Once they have reached the perfect state of softness, they are refrigerated where they will keep for six months or longer. More conservative folks like to refrigerate their lemons after a short 3-day run in the cupboard. Me, I'm going to live dangerously and let my lemons have a good long sleep on the shelf. I've made a lot of kimchi in my day and haven't killed anyone yet, so I'm going to take my chances! 

I can't wait to try these and am already dreaming of ways to use them. Has anyone else out there made these before? What are your favorite ways to use them? 

p.s. I made mine with this sea salt.


  1. Mmmm…I think you're right about the hummus. I've had these before but never made 'em. Adding it to my "make it" calendar.

  2. Can't wait to try that alongside some Indian food!