Middle Eastern

A Cure to the Lemon Problem You Didn't Know You Had

June 20, 2017

There are two types of people in the world: those who love preserved lemons, and those who haven’t tried them yet. Intensely lemony without a bitter bite, preserved lemons are laughably easy to make. Just cut them, rub them with salt, and pack them super-tight into a jar. Three weeks and some intermittent shaking later, you have jar of lemon umami perfection.

But who wants to wait three weeks? Um, not me.

Thankfully, Chefs Layo Paskin and Tomar Amedi’s latest cookbook, The Palomar Cookbook, shows us a better way to preserve lemons that only takes three days: cure them in salt and olive oil.

Besides adding olive oil, curing lemons doesn't differ too much from preserving them. Here's what you need to do:

Slice your lemons and arrange them in a layer on the bottom of a sterilized container or jar, then sprinkle them with a layer of salt. Alternate layers of lemons and salt, leaving about a half an inch at the top. Fill the rest of the container with olive oil and seal with an airtight lid. After three days, your lemons are ready for eating, and can keep in a cool, dry place for a week or in the fridge for up to a month.

Amedi does have three non-negotiables:

Rule 1: Like vampires, cured lemons don’t like sunlight, so always keep them in a cool, dark place.
Rule 2: Always make sure the lemons are fully covered in oil.
Rule 3: Always make sure you take your cured slices out of the container with a clean utensil—we don’t want the lemons to be contaminated.

There you go making our lives wonderful again, lemons. Photo by Cristina Sciarra

"In addition to speedier curing, switching water for olive oil eliminates the bleach-y taste preserved lemons sometimes carry," writes Amedi. Palomar chefs use cured lemons in salads, sandwiches, and as a sour paste for sauces or spreads. We think you should try it in tonight’s braised chicken, or to add sour-salty notes to your ice cream.

Or experiment with these recipes:

Forget lemonade. When life gives me lemons, I think I’ll cure them. Tell us what you'll do with cured lemons in the comments below.


beejay45 July 21, 2017
I've only made the traditional preserved lemons with salt and lemon juice. How does the flavor differ with the olive oil and with the water? Also, how do the different methods vary in staying power? IIRC, the original method lasts just about forever. All good, but if I can find a faster method that isn't too different in flavor, I'd love to give it a try.
Author Comment
Katie M. July 24, 2017
Hi! The flavor shouldn't be that different, but cured lemons don't last as long as ones preserved in water. They'll last for a week in a cool, dry place, or for a month in the refrigerator. Let me know how it turns out if you try it!
Sue S. July 20, 2017
What kind of salt are we adding, please?
Author Comment
Katie M. July 20, 2017
Hi Sue! You should use Maldon sea salt for this recipe.
Charlotte July 20, 2017
I love lemons but am a little confused about how to use them. Anyplace you would use in-preserved lemons? Do you cook with them or use them in a raw state? Directions said to slice and layer but the picture looks like the are cut in wedges.<br /><br />
Author Comment
Katie M. July 20, 2017
Hi Charlotte! Preserved (and cured) lemons have a concentrated flavor and are often used in Mediterranean cooking. Here's a link for some ways to use them: https://food52.com/blog/10589-1-jar-of-preserved-lemons-5-dinners<br />Also, sorry for the confusion—the image is from a previous shoot. You should slice and layer for this recipe!
BakerRB June 26, 2017
I'm looking forward to trying this. I've not been a fan of preserved lemons I've bought or made, and the bleach-y flavor description above hits the nail on the head.
Yolanda June 25, 2017
Never done this, just question, wouldn't lemons be totally oily tasting? Would water be better?