Suddenly Sauer: Preserving Food and Tradition in a Modern World

When Life Gives you Lemons… Pickle Them!
March 11, 2010, 1:41 am
Filed under: food, Pickled Anything

Coincident with the first truly sunny week of spring (always a risky thing to say in MI), I set out to preserve some of that brightness in a jar.  I’ve had Moroccan preserved lemons on the brain ever since I visited the Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley, CA, where I ate some of the most magical fermented foods on offer in this here world.  Turnip Tangerine Kombucha, Mustard Greens with Turmeric, Garlic, and Fennel Seed, pumpkin kimchee… the list went on and on.  But sometime around lunch, when the employees sat down together for a cultured smorgasbord, I tasted a true delight.  A single sardine waited unassumingly in my shallow bowl, sprawled languidly aside one small quarter of a pickled lemon.  The two tasted fantastic together, I was instantly hooked by the oily, tangy, sauerness.  Which brings me back to my experiment… I want some pickled lemons of my own!

So, for better or for worse, here in Detroit the only place lemons grow on trees is at the Belle Isle conservatory (a beautiful place to visit, but not exactly a place for foraging).  So I swallowed my pride and bought a bag of organic California lemons from whole foods– I’m especially diligent about using pesticide free produce when pickling, I’m wary of the pesticides becoming even more concentrated as they ferment (yuk) and I think pesticides are meant to be anti-bacterial/anti-microbial, which is really no fun for the little guys doing all the dirty work.

The process, stolen from the internet, was easy:

Preserved Lemons

9 lemons

non-iodized, additive-free salt

Wash lemons well.  Slice off both ends on the lemon, leaving some of the rind intact, and then slice the lemon into quarters, BUT taking care not to cut all the way through the lemon on one end, so that the quarters stay together and you are left with a lovely sort of lemon flower.

Add 1 TBS salt to a 1 quart jar.  Rub generous amounts of salt over the insides of the lemons and squish them into the jar, packing them tightly.  Squish until enough lemon juice has been pushed out to cover the lemons completely.

Place the lid on the jar lightly, so that some air can still escape but no bugs or dust can get in.

Place in a cool dark place and allow to ferment.  I’m not sure how long for because I’m posting this a day after I put them in the fermentation chamber (i.e. the cupboard next to my fridge).

I’m so eager about my lemons that I couldn’t wait until after they were pickled to make a post about them.  I’m thinking maybe I’ll edit retroactively with more info about length of ferment and some photos of the finished product.  For now, I’m adding pictures of the process up to to the point of fermentation.





As you can see, there is nothing quite so sunny as salted lemons.  With spring in the air, it seems like an appropriate sort of celebration.   There has also been mention of a possible pickled lemon and mint sorbet.  More on this to come.


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

ma and i have been loving on the pickled lemons we made in the fall, and they just seem to keep getting better all the time, and i’ve been surprised at how many meals i’ve been able to add them to where they work. i want to make an indian style lemon pickle next.

Comment by pa

I’m curious — would it work to make a lemon soda with this? Using some pickled lemon juice in place of whey?

Comment by Lee

Yes! I think it would absolutely work. You’d probably need to do some experimenting with the flavor balance b/c whey is neutral and the pickled lemon juice is so strong. I usually only use about 1/4-1/2 cup of whey in my sodas. Also, just for reference, I made a pickled lemon ice cream with these using 3 quarters of one pickled lemon and the flavor was delicious and intense. That much lemon flavored about 1/2 gallon of milk, and I used 1/2 cup honey to balance the sour flavor. Maybe those ratios will be helpful to you. Let me know of your adventures go… I’d love to hear if it works!

Comment by suddenlysauer

I finally got around to preserving my lemons and making a lemon soda, but it’ll be a week before I can taste it. My jar of preserved lemons quickly developed a layer of mold on the surface. So I skimmed that off, shook it up and added a layer of olive oil on the top, after reading a number of sources on whether that’s a good idea or not. That stopped any more mold growth. The lemons get a little oily when you take them out, but they’re still delicious. It also made getting the pickled lemon juice out a little trickier — I used a baster. For my soda, I tried a cup of pickled lemon juice, a cup of sugar (dissolved first in water), the juice of two lemons, and divided that between two half-gallon growlers filled up the remainder of the way with water. Will have to update next week on whether that worked out or not.

Comment by Lee

Forgot to update! My soda didn’t work. Didn’t get fizzy after a week with the pickled lemon brine. I then tried adding whey, but still never carbonated. Oh well.

Comment by Lee

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