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Preserved Meyer lemons

Every two or three years, our Meyer lemon tree has a boom season where all we see are fruits covering and weighing down the branches, as if the leaves have gone on vacation. This is one of those years. Other than using them in nearly every savory dish, not to mention lemon curd and lemonade, what do I with them all? Preserve ’em!

Preserved Meyer lemons and spicesBefore I crammed in two more lemons.

Suggestions for use: Minced and tossed into stews or sautés, sections placed inside the cavities of roasted poultry, puréed in dips like hummus, mashed into a marinade or dressing or sauce, etc.! I don’t know their shelf-life in the fridge, but I’ve been fine using a nearly 2-year-old jar of preserved lemons. (Although they do get somewhat mooshy in texture over time, but still useable and flavorful.)

This is enough for one 1-pint jar. I typically reuse a (cleaned!) glass jar and lid that had formerly stored 24 ounces (by weight) of honey.


  • 4 to 6 (11 to 15 ounces) Meyer lemons
  • plenty of fine sea salt, not flaked, preferably not iodized
  • 1 bay leaf, cut into 2 or 3 pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns, black or green
  • 2 to 3 inches of cinnamon stick, broken into roughly 1 inch pieces
  • 1 star anise, broken into its component arms; or, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon whole aniseed
  • (optional) a few slices of ginger
  • (optional) 1 black cardamom pod
  • (optional) 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, quartered
  • freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice


  1. Clean the Meyer lemons, and trim off any blemishes. I usually slice off a small bit from the stem and pointed ends of each lemon, too.
  2. Cut four longitudinal slices into each lemon, almost but not quartering them. You want the center of the lemon to keep the fruit together, and the slices will maximize the surface area exposed to the salt, juice and spices.
  3. Pour about a 1/8 inch of salt into the jar. Add a piece of bay leaf and a third of the spices. Cram in as many lemons to roughly fill a third of the jar.
  4. Repeat until lemons fill nearly the top of the jar. Pour in another 1/4 inch or so of salt. Fill the jar with lemon juice until the fruits are covered with liquid. You might need to gently jiggle the jar every so often to get the juice (and salt) to fill it up; see the photo below for an example.
  5. Cap off and store in the refrigerator. Allow to cure for at least 3 weeks, preferably at least 1 month, before using; shake about once a month to distribute, er, mix up the salt and spices. You can use the entire lemon —zest, pith and pulp— but be sure to remove any seeds or errant stems, and to thoroughly rinse away excess salt under running water. The preserved lemons will still remain quite salty, yet subtly flavored with whatever spices added; I typically wouldn’t need to add any more salt to a dish I’d use them in. 🙂

Preserved Meyer lemons, crammedFive lemons crammed in, and topped with gobs of salt and lemon juice. I just managed to tighten the lid on afterwards.

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