The scent of Meyer lemons reminds me of my grandma Bunny. For all the years that our lives overlapped, she was in an asymmetrical ranch in Woodland Hills, California. The house was built into the hillside, leaving it with plenty of property, but not much in the way of garden space.
That didn't stop Bunny from planting wherever she could find safe footing and a patch of sunlight. There were giant bushes of rosemary, rambling patches of mint and oregano and at least five Meyer lemon trees.
She was fond of drying slices of the Meyer lemons out in the oven, until the whole house was impossibly fragrant. There was always a bag of lemon juice cubes in the freezer, waiting to be defrosted and stirred into recipes. After my family moved to Oregon, Bunny would fill shoeboxes with Meyer lemons and overnight them to us.
There is no way to express how sunny our kitchen felt each year when we opened that box in overcast Portland.
No matter where I live, I make a point of getting my hands on generous supply of Meyer lemons each January. I dry them and juice them like Bunny did, and I always make up at least one small jar of salt preserved lemons.
A staple in Moroccan cooking, preserved lemons couldn't be easier to make. At their most elemental, they contain just two ingredients: lemons and salt. Some recipes include spices like cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, or cloves, but I like to stick to simple.
Just trim and slice the lemons, stuff them with salt and pack them into a jar. The next day, you check in with them and add more lemon juice if they haven't produced enough on their own. Then you just let them sit.
Once they've finished their fermentation process, preserved lemons are incredibly versatile. You can go traditional and add the chopped rind to stews and tagines for an intensely savory/salty/acidic kick. For a more modern take, make preserved lemon simple syrup and stir it into cocktails or sparkling water.
Before You Get Started
Search out the best citrus you can find. Since this recipe uses the whole fruit, it's best to go organic if possible. For you southerners, see if you can beg a couple pounds from a neighbor with a tree. If you live up north like me, consider splurging on a special order of citrus. I buy from the Lemon Ladies each January and love their fruit.
When you slice the fruit in preparation for preserving, cut it into four quarters without cutting all the way through. The finished lemon always resembles one of those paper fortune-teller games we made in elementary school.
Use good salt. Skip the basic table salt and choose finely milled sea salt instead. It will dissolve more easily and don't have any added anti-clumping chemicals.
Get the Recipe
About the author: Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated pickler who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars.