Preserving Lemons

Why are people so obsessed with preserving lemons? Well, it’s really easy to find out for yourself. We preserve lemons for al FreshCo to add a really special flavor to dishes, with little fuss. They last all year, and take advantage of the very brief meyer lemon season.

At al FreshCo, we are very strict about sourcing locally year round, from farmers who we know and trust are managing their land in the most responsible ways. Eating what we have around us makes a lot of sense- why would be get lettuce from Oregon when we can grow it right in our backyard? Well, we can’t say the same for lemons. The little beauties are particular about their climate, and add spectacular flavor to dishes, particularly when preserved. So we indulged ourselves, and hope you will too.

Sourcing Lemons:

Lemons are traditionally a Mediterranean crop,so lemon trees are commonly found in similar climates, like California. We found a family owned, organic orchard in Ojai, who is willing to pick per order, and ship. We got Meyer Lemons from Fairview Orchards and couldn’t be more pleased. We’ve been eating the lemons like oranges; they are that sweet. The season is in April, and doesn’t last very long.

When sourcing, I find it’s important, particularly for something in which we’re focusing on the rind, to get organic. You don’t want pesticides and other toxic chemicals lingering in the preserves you’ll have around for the next year.

Sharp Knife, meyer lemons, tablespoon, clean jars, salt
Sharp Knife, meyer lemons, tablespoon, clean jars, salt

-Jars: 1qt jar generally takes 5-6 lemons
-Lids: Nice to have new lids, but you’re not canning, so it’s not important to have a good seal. Keep in mind the screw tops will likely corrode a little from the copious volumes of salt we use to preserve the lemons
-Lemons: 5-6 per quart jar
-Salt: Any iodine-free salt is great. I use fine sea salt
-Sharp knife

Make a center cut on the navel side of the lemon within 1/4″ of the bottom

Make another cut perpendicular to the last cut, down to 1/4″ from the bottom

Now it looks like this!

Take 1 tbsp of salt, and place it inside the cut

Retaining the salt, tip it into the jar


Keep packing, pressing down as you go

Press the lemons to the bottom, with the goal of getting out any air bubbles, and submerging the lemons in their own liquid.

See that air bubble right in the middle of the jar? That’s no bueno

You can use something like a chopstick to gently run along the inside of the jar to release all the air bubbles. The air pockets can create a good space for bad bacteria to grow, so you want to minimize air in the jar

Be sure the lemons are completely submerged in liquid. It’s the salt that prevents bad bacteria growing in this now fermenting environment, so you want to be sure all the flesh is covered by that brine.


Every few days for the first week or so, be sure the lemons are still submerged, and tip them upside down once or twice to redistribute the salt brine. Store them in a cool, dry place for at least three months until you start using them, they’ll stay for at least a year.

Hooray, Preserved Lemons!

Try our Moroccan Tagine this week, inspired by this activity

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