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Preserved Lemons
  -   Hamad m'rakhad
33 days  
An indispensable ingredient for Moroccan cooking, also used throughout North Africa, and as far east as India and Cambodia. It goes into lamb and vegetable tagines (stews), with chicken and in salads, soups, and other dishes. You can also use it for Western dishes wherever lemon and salt are called for. The lemon brine itself is a delicious ingredient that tempts the imagination. The optional spicing is in the manner of Safi, Morocco.




Lemons (1)
Sea Salt (2)
Lemon Juice (3)
-- Optional
Cinnamon Stick
Coriander seeds
Peppercorns, black
Bay Leaf
  1. If the LEMON lemon rinds are a little thick, it is best to soften them so they will pack better and need less lemon juice. Do this by soaking whole lemons in water for 3 days, changing the water every day.
  2. Cut Lemons from the pointy end to within 1/2 inch of the stem end into quarters. Sprinkle salt over the exposed lemon pulp and then massage back into lemon shape. This is very traditional, but some heretics do cut them all the way into quarters.
  3. Place 2 T Salt in the bottom of the jar. Tightly pack in a layer of lemons and squash them down tight. Sprinkle more salt over the layer, and some of the spices (if used). Repeat until lemons are all in the jar, then add any remaining salt.
  4. Squeeze as much fresh Lemon Juice as is needed to cover the lemons completely and seal the jar (see Note-3).
  5. Keep in a warm spot to ferment for 30 days, shaking the jar every day to distribute the brine. If you really must, you can start using them after 2 weeks. If necessary, add more lemon juice and salt to keep them submerged or they will develop some mold which will cause mushy spots (see Note-4).
  6. When they are done they can be used as needed. Keep them in a cool place, no need to refrigerate. Should some white mold form just rinse it off the lemon before using. Note, the brine is good for a year and can be used for as many as three batches of lemons.
  7. Usage:   Many recipes call for discarding the pulp and using only the rind, but others use both together. Another common plan is to use the pulp in the sauce and the thinly sliced rind as a garnish. Some suggest rinsing the lemon before use to remove the salty brine, but others prefer to get the full impact of flavors. Basically, you can use your own preference and judgement.
  1. Lemons:   In North Africa, small lemons with thin rinds are used, about 1-3/8 inches diameter. Those in the photo were Southern Calfiornia "backyard" lemons with thin rinds, probably an unnamed hybrid of Meyer Lemon and some other kind - more sour than regular Meyer lemons. These would be much like the North African lemons, but quite a bit larger at 2-3/8 inches. Many people use Meyer lemons, but writers with extensive experience in Morocco report excellent results using the standard California Eureka lemons, carefully selected for thin rinds (you do this by feel, they shouldn't be hard).
  2. Sea Salt:   Always use natural sea salt for salt fermented recipes - table salt and name brand "sea salt" are lacking some mineral salts that help with fermentation. Natural sea salt can be purchased cheaply in plastic bags from any market serving a Korean community or expensively from the health food aisle. Natural sea salt always feels a little moist. For details see our Salt page.
  3. Lemon Juice:   Use only freshly squeezed lemon juice - no substitutes.
  4. Jar:   I use a 2 quart kimchee jar. To hold the lemons down below the brine surface, I use a plastic lid just small enough to fit into the jar, inverted, with a sterilized flat rock on top of it. See Photo.
  5. Comments:   These lemons were much used in England and North America until early in the 19th century, when improved transportation started bringing fresh lemons. The brine is still popular in Bloody Marys. Limes can also be pickled by this same method, and are liked in more tropical regions where lemons don't grow well.
  6. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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