Preserved Lemons, etc.

by Catherine Haug

I braved the rain to shop at the new Bigfork Village Market last Wednesday evening. I bought goodies at the Guizol family’s booth of fresh and preserved food, offering salad greens,  savory cheesecakes, desserts, and preserved foods.

While I bought a small goat-cheese and herb cheesecake (mmm), it was the Preserved Meyer Lemons that interested me the most, because they used an ancient method that is seldom used today.

Today, when we think of food preservation methods, we think of canning, dehydrating and smoking. But mankind has used another technique for centuries, long before the invention of canning jars and electric food dehydrators. A method that not only preserves the life of the food (the enzymes, etc.) but also enhances its nutritional quality.

That method, related to fermentation of beer and wine, takes advantage of salt and/or sugar to keep spoilage at bay, while beneficial microbes work their magic. The result is a more flavorful and nutritious product than the original fresh food – that is, if you don’t insult it with a canning bath.

Preserved Lemons & Chutney

The Guizols offered these two traditionally preserved items. Chutney comes from India via England, and the preserved lemons from North Africa via France. Once properly fermented, they will keep up to 6 months in a cool root cellar or refrigerator, without canning.

Preserved Meyer Lemons, La Provence

Preserved Lemons

(Photo by Catherine)

If you’ve never tried preserved lemons, you are in for a treat. All the wonderful flavors of the lemon that are usually hidden by the lemons’ tartness, just pop when preserved in this way. The small, round Meyer lemons are most typically used, but you can use any small lemon.

To make: You need lemons, kosher salt, optional spices, and a jar or crock. See David Lebovitz: Moroccan Preserved Lemons for excellent instructions on how to make them. See also YouTube video: Cooking with Alia: Preserved Lemons

To use: remove a lemon from the brine and rinse. Scoop out the pulp and pass through a sieve to use the juice. But the best part is the preserved peel. Slice into thin julienne, then mince if desired, to add to sauces and other recipes. The Secret Ingredient: Preserved Lemons and Food for Thought: Not Your Average Lemon offer great discussion and recipes for preserved lemons.

Pear Chutney


(Photo from Food52: Spicy Lacto-fermented Pear Chutney)

Did you know that, originally, ketchup (catsup) was a chutney? Perhaps the most common chutney today is made from mangos, but traditionally, chutney has been made from many different fruits and veggies plus nuts, spices, lemon or lime juice, salt, and sugar. Whey can also be added to jump-start the fermentation process. (Whey is made by allowing yogurt to separate; the liquid then drips through a fine sieve, leaving behind a thick, rich cream cheese).

Most recipes on the web saute the fruit in oil before preserving, and have added vinegar. But neither cooking nor vinegar are necessary if the chutney is properly fermented with salt, sugar, and added whey. When using a search engine to find recipes, include “lacto fermented’ in the word string.

Food52 has a good representative recipe using the lacto-fermentation method: Spicy Lacto-fermented Pear Chutney. Note that this recipe calls for sea salt; this means the coarser-grained, unrefined sea salt. Or you can use kosher salt.

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One Response to “Preserved Lemons, etc.”

  1. Brenda Woolhouse says:

    Great article…I will have to try this. I always end up having mold on my lemons within a week of buying them.

    Thanks for sharing