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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Preserved Lemons

preserved lemon pickle in brine

Preserved vegetables, either pickled in brine/vinegar, or in spices and oil the Indian way, make a unique accompaniment to meals.

Spicy lemon pickle with chili and garlic is one of my favorites, next only to tender baby mango pickles.

Brined baby mangoes, brined citrons (narthangai) and lemons and limes, sometimes preserved in spices and oil, sometimes dried and packed in earthenware are intimately tied to some wonderful memories of my childhood. Narthangai Oorugai with plain buttermilk rice was a summer time favorite.

Anyway, those memories surfaced when I had preserved some lemons and forgot about them a couple of months ago. Now they are ripe and ready to be enjoyed.

preserved lemon

Thin skinned lemons work well, but, I had these glossy yellow thick-skinned lemons, (and I prefer the softened preserved thick skin to the tangy mushy flesh), so, these worked out great. Spices can be varied to taste. Once opened, keep refrigerated.

Chop up and mix with rice or risotto; dice the preserved skin finely and use it to make flavored ghee or butter; or jab a fork on a chunk and enjoy it fresh as-is. The tangy saltiness, the mild sweetness balanced by the heat of the peppers, and the unique flavors of coriander, cinnamon, star anise makes this feel like quite an exotic dish.


6 medium to large lemons
3 or 4 Tbsp honey
2 cups salt
1 cup lemon juice
2 cups warm water (plus more for boiling water bath)
4 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp whole black peppers
6-8 dry red chilies (optional)
6-8 cloves of garlic (optional)
2 star anise (optional)

  1. Cut the lemon into chunks, pack in a jar sprinkling with salt generously between layers; add crushed coriander seeds and peppers and cinnamon sticks in between layers as well
  2. Dissolve the honey in warm water, add it into the jar, along with lemon juice, cover tightly with a canning ring lid
  3. Set up a boiling water bath such that the jar is at least half submerged in water, bring water to a boil, leaveit in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes, remove from heat
  4. Set the jar aside in a cool dark place for about 4 to 6 weeks
  5. Enjoy!

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