Tips & Techniques

To Lemons—and Beyond! Other Citrus to Preserve Before We Say Goodbye

March 29, 2016

Preserved lemons, we understand your magic. And we could make a jar at home with our eyes closed. So why did it take us so long to think about preserving other types of citrus?

The inspiration comes from this lovely post on our new app, (Not)Recipes, from Alana Chernila:

This is sourdough toast with ricotta, then preserved blood oranges (yes!), honey, and black pepper. #breakfast #notarecipe

Even Alana, who was written two books—The Homemade Pantry and The Homemade Kitchen—all about foods, like chèvre, tofu, kefir, kimchi, and yes, preserved lemons, to stop buying and start making—had never preserved another fruit.

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The preserved blood oranges were a gift from her friend Janet, who made them by mixing 1 part sugar to 3 parts salt, then alternating blood orange and lemon slices in a jar with the salt-sugar mixture. She topped it off with lemon juice, covered the jar, and left the fruit to ferment on the counter for a week before moving them to the refrigerator and waiting for several more.

So what other citrus can be preserved? It's a question at the front of our minds now that the citrus season is nearing its end—and one that David Tamarkin addressed over on Epicurious last year.

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Top Comment:
“I chop preserved fruit and add to my pound cake recipe...along with nuts and fresh fruit...the tang of the preserved fruit makes it unique.”
— Kathy M.

David concluded that as long as you stick with topping the jar off with lemon juice—you need the acidity—the process of salt-curing citrus fruits (kumquats, limes, clementines, tangerines, Meyer lemons, grapefruit) is the same:

  1. Scrub and dry the fruit
  2. Slice the fruit into quarters (or slice it but leave it intact on the top or bottom, so that the salt can penetrate the fruit but it remains one entity); you can even leave smaller, thin-skinned fruits—like kumquats and clementines—whole; or, do as Alana's friend Janet did, and slice it thinly (the process will take less time)
  3. Sprinkle the fruit with coarse salt, then pack it into a clean jar, layering with more salt as you go
  4. Pour in enough lemon juice to submerge the fruit
  5. Leave it in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks, shaking every day

Amanda Feifer, author of Ferment Your Vegetables and the blog Phickle, recommends seeking oranges and grapefruits with thin skins. The thicker the skin, the longer they'll take to smooth out (her preserved grapefruits and oranges took almost two months, but the limes took just one).

If you're preserving citrus other than lemon, Amanda also recommends keeping extra lemon juice on hand for troubleshooting:

When you do your daily shake and smash, give it a sniff. If it smells like some kind of citrus crack you can’t stop sniffing, all is well. If after a few days, it starts smelling slightly alcoholic, like an ambrosial arancello (or whatever the lime and grapefruit versions are called), add another dash of salt and a little squeeze of lemon juice and check back the following day.

And, while you're experimenting with all sorts of different citrus fruits, don't forget that you can add spices and other seasonings, too.

  • In My Pantry, Alice Waters give instructions for preserving kumquats, yuzu, and rangpur limes, suggesting readers spice up the recipe "with a bit of coriander, cardamom, clove, and chile. Ginger and star anise also make delicious variations."
  • Try adding dried herbs or, as David recommends, replacing up to one third of the salt with sugar.
  • Or really go for it: Make Indian lime pickles with fenugreek and mustard seeds, red chile, paprika, turmeric, garam masala, minced ginger, and pink salt.

How to use your preserved citrus? (That is, when it's ready—next month.)

  • Alice adds her preserved kumquats to kale salads and advises other salt-cured citrus be turned into chutneys, marinades, or relishes; in Vietnam, she says, they're used in a refreshing drink with water and a spoonful of sugar
  • Make Yossy Arefi's Preserved Lemon Ice Cream with limes or grapefruits instead
  • Dice, then toss into a grain salad
  • Eat slices on top of ricotta toast, like Alana does
  • Use them to flavor fish and seafood: Salt-cured citrus would do Amanda Hesser's Grilled Squid Salad proud
  • Whisk or blend minced preserved citrus into a salad dressing

What's the most creative use you've seen for preserved citrus? Share with us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kathy Murray
    Kathy Murray
  • Marmalady
  • Patty
  • jpriddy
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Kathy M. February 16, 2018
Also, I chop preserved fruit and top my hummus when serving...
Kathy M. February 16, 2018
I chop preserved fruit and add to my pound cake recipe...along with nuts and fresh fruit...the tang of the preserved fruit makes it unique.
Marmalady March 30, 2016
I love this idea! Any other (vegan) ideas on what might go well on toast? Tahini?
Patty February 16, 2018
Doesn't bread have eggs in it?
jpriddy February 16, 2018
Many breads are eggless. A baguette, for example, is only flour and water and salt and yeast. A little olive oil makes it something else.