Question about preserved lemons in this recipe

Do is the preserved lemon zest swappable for fresh lemon zest? Why are preserved lemons used in this recipe, do they have a different taste/texture to fresh lemon zest? Genuinely curious



702551 July 6, 2021
Their taste and texture is different.

Since no one here has explained why, I'll explain briefly *WHY*.

The changes are due to anaerobic fermentation that converts the sugars to lactic acid, primarily accomplished by lactic acid bacteria (LAB or lactobacillus). This is the same metabolic pathway that turns cabbage to sauerkraut, cucumbers to pickles, etc.

Yeast also can accomplish this transformation such as the conversion of milk into yogurt, kefir and cheese.

Obviously this is not a new technique, humans have been enjoying the final products of this anaerobic fermentation for thousands of years even if they didn't understand the microbial action behind it until about 150 years ago (first described by Louis Pasteur).

Here is one online article that specifically describes preserved lemons:

Today, there are many cookbooks focused on pickles and fermented products. It is worth looking at a few of these. The basic technique is to use about 2% salt by weight and press/submerge the product to be pickled to promote anaerobic fermentation (and thus avoid aerobic reactions). 2% salinity (by weight) is the general threshold to prevent most unwanted bacterial activity but not too high as to prevent lactobacillus from working.

That's why just sprinkling salt on cabbage shortly before serving doesn't result in sauerkraut. Lactic acid fermentation takes time, typically 10-14 days in a home kitchen environment but slower fermentations often result in better end products.

In my personal experience, the 2% salinity level works great for making sauerkraut and kimchi. I can usually detect a change in aroma 2-3 days after the start of fermentation.

The next time I am gifted with an excess of lemons, I will probably do a batch of preserved lemons.
Nancy July 6, 2021
Tuxedo Sam - I defer to Laura L, as the recipe author. And preserved lemons are both easy and good.
But what if you want to make the dish before you can get your hands on some preserved lemons (commercial or homemade)?
I would experiment by adding a few capers or Italian pickles (to honor the Italian origin of risotto), and maybe a bit a lemon juice.
Results will be different than original, but probably good, too.
Laura L. July 6, 2021
Hello Tuxedosam, thank you for your question! Preserved lemons are used because of their particular texture (which is similar to candied zest, pleasantly gummy) and flavor, which is a concentrated lemony flavor, with a briny finish. So they're not really swappable with regular lemon zest. However they're quite easy to make: get organic (untreated) lemons, wash them well, quarter them - without getting all the way to the bottom (you don't want wedges) - and stuff them with coarse sea salt (or kosher salt). Transfer to a small glass jar and add more salt to fill up all the free space in the jar. Make sure it's tightly packed. Close it with a lid and keep it in a cool place for about 3-4 weeks: they will macerate in their own lemony/briny solution. Once they're ready their skin will turn translucent and dark: wash them well before you use them. Hope this helps! Thank you again for your interest in my recipe, L
Recommended by Food52