Preserving lemons is an age-old tradition harking back hundreds of years as a way of being able to enjoy, use and cook with lemons out of season. Although the art of preserving lemons originated in north Africa and the Mediterranean, as lemon trees spread from Morocco to India so did the need to preserve them – introducing preserved lemons into a wide variety of Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines.
Preserved lemons are commonly made with Beldi lemons, meaning ‘traditional lemon’ in Moroccan, as they have a thinner skin and more fragrant aroma lending themselves more favourably to preserving. The act of preserving lemons in a salty brine for an extended period, often lasting months, softens the skin of the lemons as well as mellowing the intense zesty and sharp flavour synonymous with their fresh counterpart. This leaves the lemons with a punchy umami quality that adds a subtle yet distinctive citrus note to a range of dishes.
Given the heritage of preserved lemons, they most obviously lend themselves to Middle Eastern and North African cooking. They should be used in cooking, not as a specialist ingredient but, as a strong and punchy big brother to fresh lemons that can be used in almost any dish. Belazu Development Chef Henry loves using our lemons whilst cooking and has developed a range of uses: