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Moroccan Preserved Lemons

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Moroccan Preserved Lemons

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

Preserved lemons are lemons which have been pickled in salt and their own juices. Also called pickled lemons, they add a salty, distinctive lemon flavor to Moroccan tagines, sauces and salads. In Morocco, they're referred to as l'hamd marakad or mssiyar.

Cooking with Preserved Lemons

Although they are essential to many Moroccan recipes, personal taste dictates how preserved lemons might be used. Some cooks always remove the flesh, for example, while others leave it on when adding preserved lemon to tagines and sauces. In salads, however, only the finely chopped rind is usually used.

Both the saltiness and pungency can be controlled by how much preserved lemon is used, and when the lemons are added to the dish. The longer the lemons simmer in the sauce, the more salt and lemon flavor that will be released.

Make Your Own Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are very easy to make at home. It takes only a few minutes to pack the lemons with kosher salt and cover them in a jar, but you’ll need to allow about month or more for the lemons to soften and pickle. How to Make Preserved Lemons tells exactly how to do this.

If you're in Morocco, try to select doqq or boussera lemons (sold as "citron beldi"). Outside of Morocco, Eureka or Meyer lemons are favored for preserving, but any variety will work.

Where to Buy Preserved Lemons

If you don't want to make them yourself, you can buy preserved lemons online from vendors such as Mustapha's, Zamouri Spices and Belazu. Locally, preserved lemons might be found in Middle Eastern or halal markets, or in larger grocery stores which stock imported and specialty products.

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