For the last several years, one of my mid-winter traditions has been to treat myself to a box of Meyer lemons from an orchard in California. It’s my favorite way to bright dark days and ward off the gloom of January on the east coast.
When the lemons arrive, I make marmalade, jelly, dehydrated citrus slices, curd, and salt preserved lemons. It’s a joy to spend those hours squirreling away all the different lemon preserves, knowing that it will be another year before I make them again.
In a typical year, I have no problem using up the things I’ve made from my box of Meyer lemons. This time though, I just didn’t manage to work through 2012’s jar of salt preserved lemons. It got scooted to the very back corner of the fridge and there it stayed, for most of the last 12 months.
I did remember that it was tucked back there. What’s more, there have even been many moments when I knew that a little dose of preserved lemons would go nicely in a dish I was making. I just couldn’t deal with the game of reverse-Tetris that it would have required to put hands on those lemons.
About a week ago, on the hunt for some January dinner inspiration, I pulled my copy of Melissa Clark’s book, Cook This Now, down off the shelf. While leafing through, I spotted an absolutely brilliant idea. She suggests plucking the seeds out of a preserved lemon and then running it through a blender, in order to make an easy-to-use pulp.
Instead of having a giant jar of inaccessible lemons, I could have a very accessible (smaller) jar of preserved lemon puree. This was an idea I could get behind.
Once managed to unearth the jar of lemons from behind the maple syrup, I was in business. I pulled the seeds from half my stash and plopped them into the blender. It took less than a minute in the Vitamix to work them into a very sunny paste. Now, whenever I want to add that funky, tangy, salty, tart preserved lemon flavor to a dish, all I have to do is dip a clean spoon into a jar that now lives on the door of the fridge. Preserved lemons, redeemed!
Melissa Clark recommends that you cover the puree with a generous layer of olive oil, to keep it from spoiling. A very sensible idea.
The best thing about blending the lemons is that once you’ve scraped what you can out of the blender pitcher, you’re already halfway to a great salad dressing. Because it’s inevitable that you won’t be able to get every last bit out of the blender. Instead of surrendering and cleaning it out in the sink, add a little water, honey, and freshly ground pepper. Put the pitcher back on the blender base, run the motor on low and drizzle in a little olive oil. As soon as it develops a thick consistency, you’re done.
The finished dressing is creamy and tart, but without the throat-catching acidity that a vinegar-based dressing can have. I made a not-so-seasonal salad of halved grape tomatoes and avocado, covered it with my blender dressing and heaped it on a pile of torn lettuce. It made for a really great weekday lunch.
If you have a stash of preserved lemons tucked away in your fridge, how are you using them?
i’m fairly sure i need some of this now. or yesterday. maybe last week.
happy new year, marisa!
Happy New Year to you too, Molly! Sounds like it’s time for you to salt some lemons! 🙂
Thanks, what a fabulous idea! The deli near me sells individual preserved lemons but I always wonder if I’d actually get around to using the whole thing. Purée sounds much easier to use!
I have never preserved lemons before, but now I am very much tempted! Thanks for the idea!
I’m cutting them up fairly small, almost a dice, and tossing them into most of my salads. They remind me of a sunnier caper without as much of the bitter flavor some people don’t like. I always rinse them & they still have that nice salty tang that’s a great foil to fruit.
That makes me wonder if they’d be good in a pan sauce, in the place of capers.
Actually, I’m thinking about the puree with capers in butter as the sauce for a schnitzel. . . .yum!
Just last night I used them in a pan sauce WITH capers…also added artichoke hearts…topped chicken thighs with this and baked.
They go in to salads and roasted vegetables around here. I also have a jar of preserved limes that I love to dice up and put in to taco meat!
Taco meat! That’s really brilliant!
Did you preserve your limes the same way?
I rinse mine and chop them up and throw into salad dressing, veggie sautes (especially with zucchini, yum), and—my personal favorite, into Preserved Lemon Hummus. I recently made a batch of preserved lemons with herbs de provence, which I haven’t gotten to use yet, so I’m excited to see what I can make with them. Love this puree idea!
I love the idea of a preserved lemon hummus. I’ll definitely have to try that!
I love the idea of ordering a box of meyer lemons in the winter. Such a nice, luxurious way to brighten things this time of year.
I ordered a box of lemons this year, too. Lovely organic Meyers from the Texas valley. It will definitely be a yearly thing now! I put some up to preserve last month for a traditional Morrocan tagine (it was delish!) and have plenty left over. I’m definitely going to wazz some up for salad dressings and hummus and veggies and salmon and…. the list could, and will, go on.
OK, silly question, but you are pureeing flesh and rind?
Yes, I pureed both. I know that typically, you only use the rind of a preserved lemon, but the flesh has so much flavor as well.
I’ve always been curious about preserved lemons, but this article and the comments are giving me some serious inspiration. Brilliant!
I’m just using them fresh, right off the tree! Made Lemon Oregano Chicken this week and the intensity of the roasted lemon slices with fresh oregano, garlic and a bit of white wine made a wonderful sauce to pour over the roasted chicken legs!
Ohhhhh! Excellllent! All the citrus trees are heavy with lemons around my neighborhood right now and I’ve been looking for a way to preserve them. This is perfect! Thank you!
Thank you for sharing this clever technique! I’m going to try this with some of the batch of lemons I set up a couple of weeks ago. I love that both the rind and pulp go into the puree (I normally discard the pulp, and I hate wasting it!).
Ooh, this is a great idea! I never know what to do with preserved lemons, so I never make them–even though we have a very fruitful lemon tree right outside the back door. Must try!
My grandmother always had a jar of preserved limes at the ready …. whenever we would cough, she would feed us bits to calm the cough. Old Chinese remedy.
I just put up a quart of preserved lemons from The Lemon Ladies ( along with a whole lot of your lemon curd), so will remember this next fall….
love them. always put them in my hummus. on top of basmati rice (also pistachios, chopped dried fruit, orange peel, sumac). in the crock pot with a jar of olives and a bunch of chicken legs. in chicken soup. smeared on fish. in my clam sauce. smashed up with garlic confit and spread on chicken or in the shrimp scampi.
I love preserved lemons! In fact, I used the last of mine yesterday. So, good timing with this article. I usually mince mine and add them to egg salad (along with a few other yummies). Gives a karate-chop boost in flavor.
What a great idea. Most of the time we use them they end up pureed anyway. What a great time saver to just do it beforehand!
They’re great minced and browned with some garlic in a bit of olive oil, then deglaze your pan as usual or use a tad more oil and just use the intensely flavored lemon-garlic bits in oil in place of a traditional pan sauce. Or purée them into a coarse paste with garlic, rosemary, and a little oil then smear on a pork tenderloin, loin, or any cut of lamb and marinate overnight.
What will the difference be between using regular lemons vs. Meyer lemons?
Hi Marisa, do you think one could go ahead and can the preserved lemon puree? Thanks for all your wonderful recipes and ideas on your site.
You probably could, though I’d skip the layer of olive oil to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with the seal of the jar. It’s an entirely acidic product, so it would be safe. I just don’t know what would happen to the flavor after that much exposure to heat. It’s certainly worth trying, though.
May sound like a weird question, but do you think the puree could be dehydrated? I am always working on long-term food storage (a la meals in jars) and this sounds like a wonderful addition to a rice recipe, for example.
I’m sure it could be! I bet that would be delicious!
This is so great. I have to confess the first time I made preserved lemons I threw them away – I didn’t know you use the rind and not the mushy flesh! They looked so inedible. Now I know how to use them properly I can’t wait to try again and use them in some of these awesome ideas! (I just made my first batch of fresh hummus – preserved lemon paste would be divine!)
I first made them for a Moroccan chicken recipe that I still make regularly. Then I started throwing them into everything I would use lemons in. I’m at the end of a jar and we are leaving for a couple of months, so I’ve just been dipping out a little of the liquid and using it to salt savory dishes. Nothing makes me happier than a jar of preserved lemons in the fridge!
I think I’ll have to search out meyer lemons at the farmers market….
I made a batch of this a few weeks ago and discovered the pureed version makes a lovely compound butter for fish. I added about 2 tsp of puree to 6 Tbsp of softened butter and a couple minced scallions. Pan-fried salmon filets and topped them with this butter after plating. Delicious!
Thanks for being such an inspiration to keep creating in the kitchen.
I love this idea! I, too, had a neglected stash of preserved lemons sitting in my fridge from last season. I’ve been using them all the time now that I was forced to use them. I love them so much, I made a double batch this year. Can’t wait to make some puree now! Thanks so much!
I gotta tell ya, the reason I haven’t made preserved lemons is because I wasn’t really sure what to do with them (which is ridiculous since I married into a family from the Middle East) and I didn’t want to deal with the jar in the fridge.
I’m going to have to try this. Thanks! and thanks for the book recommendation!
My jar of preserved lemons is STILL sitting in the back of the refrigerator -Only used a couple times. I find them way too salty and less enjoyable than I anticipated. I am happy to read the option of a puree but still wonder how salty it will be? The salad dressing sounds good.
Julia, if you puree them without the liquid, they will be less salty. However, I can’t tell you how salty your puree will end up being, because I don’t know how much salt you started with.
Thank you so much for the salad dressing idea. Just did it and it is AWESOME! Love. Keep em coming.
Well, I’m patiently waiting for the 30 days to pass to blend them in my ninja. I love everything lemon, so had to mark this one on the calendar . I still have 2 more weeks to wait. Thank you for this.
Hi, questions – appreciate anyone’s feedback!
I’ve seen preserved lemons, and they mostly looked all brown & nasty, so didn’t appeal. Is that from leaving them out for the 3-4 weeks, rather than going to the fridge within days, as per the link? These are so pretty and lemony, and I can see myself using the blend more easily than chunks o’ peel. Do you rinse off the extra salt before blending?
Love lemons but I’m very salt-sensitive, so wonder if this is worth my while. Is there some bare-minimum quantity of salt to ensure safety, but at which I could stop to minimize the saltiness of the final product? Seems, again, the quick trip to the fridge would allow using less than leaving it sitting out…
Thanks for All of this encouraging info-it’s my first season of Meyer lemons and I love them! I’m thinking of puréeing a few and making ice cubes out of them, to use later-In several recipes-would that work?
You’re thinking of pureeing the whole, raw lemons? I’m not sure how that would work.