pickled lemons

ma’s job has her putting together boxes of produce much like a csa, but from several vendors, and targeted at low-income individuals on the east side of detroit.  sometimes she has leftovers that no one wants at the sites, and we are lucky enough to get the produce.  this last week it was about a dozen lemons.

i’ve long enjoyed the pickled lemons that are found in mediterranean markets, though i also love the south indian lemon pickles too.  with my love of fermenting food, i felt it wouldn’t be too hard to ferment my own pickles, starting with the mediterranean style, i’ll try the south indian style next time.  i looked up several recipes and made something up that sounded right to me.

step one – wash the lemons and crock

lemons and crock

these are nonorganic lemons so i took special care to wash them well and washed the crock out as well.  you of course don’t have to use a crock, you can use a food grade bucket or mason jar.

step two – quarter lemons and  cut out the pith

lemons cut into quarters

some recipes i looked at recommended cutting out the pith, and i like that idea, since the pith is bitter.  i figured the skin contains enough pith, and that cutting out the pith would help release some of the juice.

step 3 add the spices and salt

spices and salt added to the bottom of the crock

all the recipes called for cinnamon, so i added that, several recommended bay leaf, and then i added peppercorns, fennel, cumin and coriander for good measure.  maybe it’s overkill, but i think it will work out fine.  i added generous amounts of salt to the bottom

step 4 – pack in the lemons

lemons packed in the crock

i packed em on their end, which i felt would have them keep their shape better than putting them on the side.  i packed 2 layers, adding more salt and more spices in between the layers, and then added more salt and spices to the top.

salt and spices on the top layer

then add water so that it covers everything.  lemons don’t seem to float to the top unlike most other ferments i’ve done.

step 5 weight it down and add oil

oil on top and weight

unlike most other ferments recipes i consulted recommended adding olive oil to the top  to seal it against the air since the lemons don’t seem to rise up.  i was a little worried that the lemons might pop up so i did the usual method of a plate and weight, and then added oil over top.  finally i added a towel and tied it all tight like making sauerkraut.

this should ferment for at least 4 to 6 weeks.  i’ll test them in a few and see how they are.


10 responses to “pickled lemons

  1. what do you do with them when they’re done? I’ve never tried them. I’m curious how you’d eat them.

  2. well, you can pretty much use then in almost any recipe that would call for lemon, just you have to treat them a little different. you can eat them whole, since the rind is nice and soft now, adding complexity to the lemon flavor. used in north african stews, or lentil and lemon soup, or i seen them used in roasted chicken as part of the stuffing.

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  6. oh, and just so you know, the brine left over after making pickled lemons might be the most amazing marinade for a roast chicken ever. really.

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  10. I will try this method. I usually cut lemon in 1/8ths, remove the seed, place one layer of lemon then add salt and keep filling a jar like this. Leave this jar on the kitchen windowsill and shake it everyday. This pickle is so yummy to eat with cooked rice and yoghurt. After couple of days, it is ready to be eaten. (If you want, you can even spread them under the sun to dry this pickle completely – last more than 6 months) You can add it to your salads and soups to add flavour. If you want hot pickle, then you can add oil to a hot pan, pop mustard seeds; When it starts to pop, take the pan of heat; to 3 cups of lemon pickle, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup chilli powder+1/4 tsp fenugreek powder+1/4 tsp mustard powder+1/2 tsp turmeric+1/8 tsp asafoetida to this oil (be careful of the fumes – have you range-hood fan on high); add your pickled lemon (lime) to this and saute. Your hot pickle is ready. Depending on your taste reduce or increase your chilli powder.

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