Preserved Meyer Lemons

If you have access to a lemon tree, you can enjoy your lemons all year long.  Meyer lemons make them extra special.

I was really spoiled as a child growing up in a tropical climate with a lemon tree in our backyard.  On really, really hot and humid days, my friends and I would sit under that tree with a knife, a cutting board and a salt shaker and heavily salt those lemon halves and drink in the juice.  It was so good.  This was back in the late ’70’s to early 80’s, before Gatorade was around, but apparently we were on the right course to hydrating ourselves.  I don’t know what kind of lemons they were, all I know is that once I moved back to the states, I never tasted another lemon like that.  They were small, and thin-skinned, and so good.

Until the day I cut into a Meyer lemon a few years ago, and my brain instantly took that smell and transported me back under that lemon tree with my friends and a salt shaker, a cutting board and a knife.

Yes, I do eat these by themselves.  Guilty.

However, they are also excellent on a grilled chicken mixed with rosemary and oregano; mixed with garlic, parsley, and olive oil and spread of a nice fillet of fish over the grill; sliced thinly into a batch of hummus; used to flavor a lemon vinaigrette; used to flavor a batch of yogurt cheese…there are many, many recipes out there.  These are just a few things I have actually used mine for previously that have been well-received.  Besides eating them out of the jar (which is not recommended).

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Fresh Meyer Lemons

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Diced Meyer Lemon for a small batch of marmalade – see how thin the peel is?

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Preserved Lemon peel sections from my last batch. After sitting on the counter for a few weeks, I placed them in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process.

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Day One – preserved Meyer Lemons. I did not squish the juice out of these in the beginning, and at the end of the first week, I went back through with a heavy spoon and squished them all down, and added the squeezed sections of almost one whole lemon to each jar, topping them off with another tablespoon of kosher salt.

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Day 5: Preserved Lemons on the left and Preserved Kumquats on the right: See the little gas bubbles in the kumquats? Do open the jars once a day for the first week to release the gases so your jars don’t explode. I eventually added more lemons to the jar on the left and squished them down some more, and added more juice to the kumquats. The kumquats have no juice of their own, and they just kept absorbing the juice. I wanted to make sure that there was enough room for the brine to float in between all of the kumquat pieces.

For each pint of preserved lemons, you will need:

  • Fresh Meyer Lemons – About 3 to 4 per pint.  It’s best if you know the source. which is probably the only way you would be making this due to an abundant supply.  Even if there from your own back yard, it’s best to wash them to remove airborne dust and particles that have settled on the fruit as they sit on the tree.  If there from a store, use a brush to help remove any waxes and sprays that may have been applied.
  • Kosher or sea salt (non-iodized, as the iodine will leave a metallic taste).  You will need about 1/2 to 1 cup of kosher salt per pint.  Seems like a lot, but, before you use these in a recipe, rinse the lemon under running water to remove the excess salt.
  • Extra Meyer lemons (or regular lemons), for topping the preserves off with extra juice to keep them covered.  This can be added over time, as the preserves settle and, sometimes, float.

Start off by sanitizing the jars and lids well.  Either run them through the dishwasher, or boil them in water (lined with a towel to avoid breakage) for 10 minutes.  If  you can locate the plastic lids, this is a perfect time to use these.  All the salt used in the lemons tends to rust the regular canning lids.

Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to the bottom of the jar.  Start adding your lemons, making sure to squeeze the juice into the jar before you add the lemon.  You can add the lemons the  traditional way, nearly cut all the way through; or cut all the way through.  Think about how you will be using them.  Make it work for you.  If you keep the lemons connected, after squishing the juice into the jar, stuff the inside of the lemon with kosher salt.  Layer the next lemon on top, etc., and press firmly.  If you are using lemon pieces, after every layer or two of lemons, make sure to sprinkle a good tablespoon or two or kosher salt.  Finish with another tablespoon of kosher salt and lemon juice to cover.   Remove to a quiet, cool and dark corner.

Every day for the first week, visit your lemons.  Gently rotate the jar to disperse the salt.  It may take a day or two for all of the salt to dissolve.  You should start to see little bubbles float up.  These are the gasses that are formed from the fermentation.  Open the lid to release the gases, every day.  After the first week or so, this will not be necessary.  You will know this when you stop hearing the releasing gas sound upon opening the jar.

**Traditionally, the lemons are left nearly whole, the bottom left intact.  If I had a larger family and I used these on a regular basis and was using more a whole lemon at one time, this would be great.  But I learned with my first small batch that I only used a quarter or two of peel at a time and ended up handling the lemons too much and putting them back in the brine.  So, I now cut them in quarters and sometimes in eighths so there’s less handling of the merchandise, and thus less chance of contamination being introduced to the jar.

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Week 3: After a several weeks the brine will be thick and muddled. The lemons will continue to cure for weeks and months. Can you tell that there are more lemons stuffed in there?

At any point after the first week or two, they can be transferred to the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process.  Add more lemon juice as needed during the first few weeks.  I have also added more lemon to the jar during the first week only.  Of course, I added a little more salt.  Just in case.

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To learn more about Meyer lemons, read here:  https://icookforleftovers.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/farmers-market-find-meyer-lemons

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