Preserved lemons in olive oil


I will not say much about preserved lemons. Much has already been said and written that at this stage in time I think it can be considered a classic. So If you love lemons and I think everybody does, you will appreciate preserved lemons.

The origin of the fruit is probably from North East India. It became widely spread in the Middle East when Arabs brought it to Persia and then to Iraq and Egypt around 700 AD. The word comes from the Arabic word Limun which is also the same in Hebrew. Today all over the Middle East and North Africa it’s a staple used in countless ways by different culinary traditions including other Mediterranean countries such as France, Italy and Greece.

Preserving lemons was a great way to prolong the shelf life of fresh lemons and enable people to use them faraway from where they grew. Today in Israel, although we have great fresh lemons almost all year around, people still preserve lemons because the process adds so much value to the final flavour. You can use them in salads, stews, pastas and dips. Its also great with fish and with lamb (Checkout my lamb shoulder recipe) and you can use the oil and lemon juice leftovers for dressings and sauces. if you want to add some tang or punchiness and elevate the flavour complexity of a dish that requires some acidity these lemons are a great addition, either fresh or cooked. 

Prepare at least 2 weeks before use
Produces a medium size jar


10-15 organic lemons
6 cloves of garlic
Fine sea salt with no additives
Sweet paprika
2 red chilli peppers
Extra virgin olive oil


Sterilised glass jar with lid
Small sharp knife


Wash your hands well. Wash and dry all lemons. Squeeze 3 lemons and set the juice aside. Take the remaining lemons and cut them into 1/2 cm slices lengthwise. Using a small sharp knife, remove as much of the seeds as possible from the slices. It will help reduce the bitterness. Peel garlics and cut each in half length wise. Pour salt into a small size bowl. Take each lemon slice and cote it lightly in salt on both sides. Shake down to discard excess salt and layer each slice tightly in your sterilised jar. Every couple of layers throw in a few garlics and sprinkle a little paprika. Continue until you have about 2cm of space left in the jar. Push down the lemons into the jar to make sure they are tightly packed. Add the chilli peppers. Pour in the lemon juice and cover with olive oil to the top. Seal the jar and place in room temperature, away from strong direct sunlight. Give the lemons 2 weeks minimum before tasting. Flavour will continue to develop and bitterness will come down over the following weeks. When you achieve a flavour you like, put the jar in the fridge to preserve it longer. Make sure all ingredients in the jar are always covered by liquid to prevent mould from developing.

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