Michael and I have pursued our dream of turning our back yard into an edible landscape for several years. We’ve replaced inedible bushes with blueberries, raspberries, and grape vines, and planted apple, cherry, plum, peach, fig, and pecan trees. But there are two trees I wish we could grow in our yard and can’t due to the cold winters: avocado and Meyer lemon. Last year I saw Meyer lemon trees in containers at Home Depot and I briefly thought I might try to grow one indoors, then I thought of the lime and calamondin orange trees I had tried growing indoors, both of which failed, and I had to walk away. Those were only $20 experiments, the Meyer lemon tree would have been a $69 experiment, a bit more of an investment, so I need to study a little more before attempting it.
Meyer lemons are a cross between lemons and mandarins, and they have a different taste and appearance from the lemons we usually find in the grocery stores, the Eureka lemon. The flavor is milder and sweeter, and the color when ripe has a bit of orange in it.
Last week Kristy Bernardo and I were doing a girls’ morning out run to Trader Joe’s, a monthly trip we do together, and we geeked out over the Meyer lemons, which we don’t see in the grocery stores very often around here. I brought home several bags and got to work slicing and salting, thinking about Moroccan tagines the whole time and wishing once again that I had a Meyer lemon tree growing in the house.
If you’ve never had preserved lemons in Moroccan food, it’s something you have to try. The lemons are preserved in salt and lemon juice then stored in a jar for 30 days. It’s so easy, really. The hardest part is waiting. Once they’ve fully brined, then you can take out a whole lemon or remove just one slice as needed for a dish, rinse off the excess salt, and cook with it. If prepared and stored properly, the lemons will keep for up to six months.
You’ll find many Moroccan tagine recipes, salads, and chicken dishes that call for preserved lemons, and the bit of salty, tart flavor it adds is exquisite.
- 6-7 Meyer lemons, well scrubbed
- 1/4-1/3 cup sea salt
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sea salt in the bottom of the jar. Quarter 1 lemon, slicing down from the stem end down to the tip but not all the way through so the quarters stay attached to each other. The lemon will look like a claw. Coat the pulp with sea salt and press it down into the jar, squeezing out the juice. Sprinkle a little more salt on top.
- Repeat with as many lemons as will fit in the jar. Pour some fresh lemon juice on top to cover the lemons, leaving a little headspace in the jar, then seal it.
- Keep the jar in a warm, dark place (pantry or cupboard) for 30 days. Turn the jar upside once a day to distribute the juice and salt, then sit it back on the shelf. When ready to use, remove a lemon or a slice and rinse it well. Make sure the lemons in the jar stay covered by the juice and salt, and they will keep for up to 6 months.
pint canning jar, with lid and band, sterilized
Meyer lemons are perfect for preserving, but you can use the standard grocery store lemons if necessary. You’ll probably fit about five lemons in the jar and then juice the others. Make sure you sterilize the canning jar and lid before using to help prevent the growth of unwanted bacteria.