What can you do with a bumper crop of fresh, ripe lemons?  I have two ideas that are simple and will offer many opportunities throughout the non-citrus season to experience the taste of fresh lemons:  Preserved lemons and lemon curd.

Preserved lemons are an easy project that yields big results.  Make two weeks before you plan to initially use them.  Just assemble, refrigerate, and forget it.  These lemons can last up to 6 months in the refrigerator.  Simply pluck out a piece or two whenever your dish calls for lemons.  There are many uses for preserved lemons that go beyond Moroccan tagines.  See end of this recipe for some ideas.

Preserved Lemons

1 sterilized, large glass jar and lid (I used a 1.5 L Weck jar)

6 whole lemons (less or more depending on the jar’s size)

1/2 cup kosher salt

Sterilize glass jar and lid by placing it in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Do not skip this step as some have reported their lemons becoming moldy over time.  Allow jar to cool on clean towel before proceeding.

Place one heaping tablespoon of kosher salt on the bottom of the glass jar.  Cut ends off of lemons.  Quarter lemons lengthwise, being careful to not cut all the way through.

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Place one layer of lemons on the bottom of the jar.  Sprinkle generous amount of kosher salt on top, place another layer of lemons on top again, sprinkling more kosher salt on the next layer.  Push lemons down as you go, releasing their juices and making room for more lemons.  If you do not yield much juice from the lemons, squeeze fresh lemon juice into jar.  You don’t need a lot of juice, just enough to cover the bottom if need be.  Do not use commercially bottled lemon juice.

Allow about one inch headspace on top of jar and secure lid on top.  I like to put a label on the jar with the date on it.  Store the lemons in the refrigerator for two weeks before using.  Lemons can be used up to 6 months.  To use, pluck lemons from the jar using sterilized tongs as not to contaminate the remaining lemons.  Rinse with water and add to anything that calls for lemons (or even things that don’t call for lemons.)

A few ideas for preserved lemons:

  • Toss hot pasta, butter, shallots, salt and pepper, and preserved lemons
  • Chop and use a touch in salads
  • Chop into little pieces and add to salsas and dips
  • Add to Bloody Marys
  • Liven any grain salad
  • Serve with fish
  • Serve with any grilled meats
  • Top grilled bread with olive oil, salt and preserved lemons

Lemon Curd

Lovely lemon curd.  Layer it between cakes, spoon it over pound cake or ice cream, fill it in tart shells, or eat straight out of the jar with a spoon.  The list is endless.  I love lemon curd, but sometimes I don’t feel like making it.  What I do now is make several jars of curd and freeze them for future use.  Lemon curd can be frozen up to one year without any negative effects on taste or texture.

My favorite recipe is by Ina Garten in “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” which was published in 1999.  This recipe yields 3 cups.  I like to make three or four batches for the freezer!  Link to recipe here or see below:

3 lemons

1 1/2 cup sugar

1/4 pound unsalted butter

4 extra large eggs

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (3-4 lemons)

1/8 tsp kosher salt

Using a rasp or zester, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.

Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from heat, pour through a fine mesh colander (to remove bits of cooked egg and such), and cool.  Pour into mason jars, seal, and freeze up to one year.