A Spicy Affair
Preserving Lemons

Lemons Photo: Aphra Adkins © Goethe-Institut

Salted lemons are used mainly in Moroccan cuisine and lend dishes a very characteristic touch. Just making them is a great pleasure. Observing the lemons becoming coated in fruity brine over time is a lovely sight.

Aphra Adkins and Britta Gädtke

Why are lemons fermented?

Lemons are very fresh by nature but also bitter and firm. They can be fermented to influence the latter and transform the citrus fruits into an ingredient for North African cuisine. Lots of salt and the acidity inherent in lemons turn the tart yellow treats into a spicy affair.

The lemons will need at least three to four weeks before they are ready for use. Since the process involves plenty of acids and a large amount of salt, the jars will keep for a long time — up to a year in a cool dark place. They only get better with time and look beautiful on the shelf!

Salted lemons pair wonderfully with fish or chicken dishes, but can also be added as a seasoning to risottos or pasta. They also go great with yogurt for use as a dip for grilling or with a vegetable platter.


7 to 8 organic lemons
1 cup of pure sea salt
0.5 tablespoons of sugar


Wash the lemons well, preferably scrubbing them with a brush or sponge. Cut open one of the lemons and squeeze out the juice.
Lemons Photo: Aphra Adkins © Goethe-Institut Cut off both ends of the remaining lemons, and then, cut into them about 1 centimeter (0.75 inches) all around. Press salt into each of these cuts.

Now, in a larger canning jar with a wide opening, sprinkle a fine layer of salt and firmly press in the first layer of lemons. Sprinkle this with salt and a little sugar, and continue to alternate layers of lemons and salt. If there are too many gaps, you can also cut some of the lemons into halves or quarters so they fit. Finally, pour the squeezed lemon juice over the top.

Close the jar, and leave it to infuse in a dark place that is not too warm for three to four weeks. During this time, shake or turn the jar a little so that the salt dissolves in the developing juice. To ensure that the lemons are completely covered by the liquid, you can place a weight in the jar. Small jars or plates or commercially available fermentation weights are suitable for this purpose.

Before use, rinse the lemons and, depending on the recipe, either cut only the peel into paper-thin strips or add the pulp to the various dishes.

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