used in many a tagine recipe, in some salads or added as an ingredient in some brik recipes, this is a staple item and not just some curious ingredient — in the markets (of north africa) they can be bought individually to use as needed. the lemons will keep for a good year or longer either in a cool area or the refrigerator.
there are different ways to prepare the lemons. concerning the cut, some people leave them whole and others will cut thick slices or even dice them up in chunks. i prefer to keep them whole as shown below. to soften the skins, i let the lemons cure in only the salt for approximately a week before continuing with the recipe (this is how i was taught/shown how to do it). some people will soak the lemons in (warm) water for several days, changing it every day and then go ahead with the pickling process. the citrons confits can also be made plainly or with spices, such as bay leaves, a stick of cinnamon, peppercorns, red chilies etc. different cities or regions (or ethnic groups) have different ways of preparing them.
i will add the non-oil way, with spices, later on ..... pictures still to be 'processed'.
citrons confits (preserved lemons)
lemons, unblemished and unwaxed
kosher salt, i.e. coarse salt (not "rock" salt)
vegetable oil (or mild olive) or pure lemon juice
paprika & bay leaf, optional
take lemons and wash extremely well.
on a clean board, cut each lemon crosswise from the blossom end.
cut only to within 1/4 of the stem end.
take each lemon and pack it well with A LOT of salt in all 4 openings.
place the lemons in a sterilized jar and let them cure for one week.
shake the jar daily. eventually, the juices will come out and the peel should soften up.
let the lemons cure for at least another three and a half to four weeks.
to use, cut away pieces and rinse very well under running water. remove any seeds (and pulp) and chop the skin. add to the dish for which you need it.
a] similar but said to be ready in 7 days .... who knows. look here & here. (update: ok, i tried it - it works but waiting the month much improves and softens them completely).
b] salt the lemons, pack in a jar, sprinkle some more salt, let sit 3 days, add enough lemon juice to cover and let pickle for 4 wks.
c] same as b, use oil instead of lemon juice.
here is an extra recipe (untried) that includes sugar in it. bonnie stern is canadian, a well-known cookbook author and also runs a cooking school in toronto.
she has great recipes, so check out both her site and books she's written.
BONNIE STERN'S PRESERVED LEMONS
makes 8 lemons
2 cups (500mL) kosher salt
1/2 cup (125mL) sugar
2 cups (500mL) lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick - optional
4 star anise - optional
2 bay leaves - optional
Cut lemons into quarters lengthwise leaving them attached at the stem end.
Combine salt and sugar.
Place about 1/2 cup (125mL) salt mixture in the bottom of a preserving jar that will hold the lemons snuggly.
Fill each lemon with salt mixture and place in the jar. Cover with any remaining salt mixture. Pour lemon juice into the jar just to cover lemons. Close cover tightly.
Let lemons sit for one month before using.
To use, discard pulp and pith. Rinse peel. Chop finely or thinly slice according to the recipe.
makes 8 lemons