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how we eat

Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year to make new preserved lemons.LIBRADO ROMERO/The New York Times

This is part of a series exploring the cultural, technological and social trends that are informing the way we dine and select what we eat. Read the rest in the series here.

Lemons are a good introduction to food preservation. The flavour is fragrant, not bitter, and of course lemony.

Preserved lemons are an indispensible ingredient in Moroccan food. They can be used in salads, stew and even cakes. Anywhere that lemon peel is used, preserved lemons can be used. Discard the pulp and chop the rind finely before using.

Meyer lemons make wonderful preserved lemons. You can also use the same procedure on limes or kumquats. Cookbook author and Vancouver chef Karen Barnaby makes a relish out of preserved lemons and roasted peppers to top marinated albacore tuna and to season lamb tagine.


– Eight juicy, thin-skinned lemons, preferably organic

– 1/4 cup (60 mL) fine sea salt, more if desired

Equipment needed

– Squeaky clean 750 mL (3 cup) jar and lid.

Thoroughly wash and dry five of the lemons. Quarter them from the top to within ½-inch (1.25 cm) of the bottom. Spread the lemons open slightly and sprinkle salt on the flesh.

Place 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt on the bottom of the jar. Pack in the lemons, pushing them down and adding more salt as you go. Press on the lemons to release their juice and to make room for the remaining lemons. If the juice does not cover the lemons add freshly squeezed lemon juice from the remaining three lemons. Leave a little headspace and seal the jar.

Let the lemons sit in a warm place for a month, shaking the jar each day. When ready, the peel will be slightly translucent. Refrigerate. A lacey substance may develop on the lemons which is not harmful. Rinse it off before using. Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year to make new preserved lemons. Add a fresh tablespoon of salt each time.


I always find it amusing that commercial yogurts – especially low-fat ones – are filled with stuff that work against the yogurt. This is the real deal.


– 1 litre (4 cups) whole milk, preferably organic

– 2 tablespoons (30 mL) plain yogurt to use as the starter culture

Equipment needed

– a squeaky clean, 1 litre/quart jar with a tight-fitting lid

– a blanket

– a small picnic cooler

– an instant-read thermometer

Place the milk in a large pot to prevent boiling over. Set it over medium heat until it reaches 85 C (185 F). Hold it at that temperature for 10 minutes by adjusting the heat. Fill your sink with 15 cm (six inches ) of very cold water and set the pot in the sink. Let sit – you can stir it occasionally if you like – until the temperature lowers to 45 C (113 F). Stir 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the milk from the pot into the yogurt culture until smooth, then whisk it into the milk. Pour contents of pot into quart jar.

Pour 15 cm (six inches) of 55°C (130 F) water into the picnic cooler. I find that the water from my tap is hot enough. Screw the lid on the jar tightly, place in the water and cover the cooler with the lid. Cover with a folded blanket for extra warmth. The yogurt will be set after three-four hours. You can also make the yogurt at night and let it sit in the cooler until the morning. The longer it incubates, the tangier it will be. Refrigerate, and remember to save some yogurt to culture your next batch.