Belinda Jeffery

Preserved Lemons In Olive Oil

I make rather a lot of preserved lemons as they add the most wonderful exotic note to even the simplest of dishes and can really lift them out of the ordinary. I often pop a wedge or two into a chicken before roasting it; mix the finely sliced skin with a little olive oil and parsley and drizzle it over barbecued fish, or finely chop the skin and add a smidgen to the dressing for a simple green salad. I also tend to make up quite a few smaller jars of lemons as they make the most gorgeous gifts for friends who love to cook.

The only thing you really need to be aware of when you make this recipe is that the lemons take a few months to soften and mellow, so you will have to be patient – however I think the wait is well worth it!

  • Makes roughly 3–4 medium-sized jars.


  • 6 large thick-skinned, un-waxed lemons, thoroughly washed and dried
  • About 150g coarse kitchen or sea salt
  • 2–3 cinnamon quills
  • A few bay leaves
  • Juice of 3-4 lemons
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, to cover

Slice the lemons lengthwise into 6 wedges and put them into a large ceramic or glass bowl. Sprinkle the salt over the top and thoroughly mix everything together.

Cover the bowl with plastic film and put it in the fridge. Leave the lemons for three days, stirring them a couple of times each day.

To store the lemons, you will need some scrupulously clean, dry jars that have tight-fitting lids. Just make sure the lids are plastic-lined (or use glass clip-lock jars) or they may corrode.

Tightly pack the lemon wedges into the jars, pressing down firmly on them to release as much juice as possible. As you go, add a piece of cinnamon quill and a bay leaf or two to each jar, and divide the salty juices left in the bowl evenly between them. Pour the extra lemon juice over the top then completely cover the lemon wedges with olive oil so they’re submerged in it. With a clean cloth that has been dipped in boiling water, wipe the necks of the jars free of the salty/lemony juices, then dry the necks and seal the jars tightly.

Leave the lemons in a cool, dark place for at least 1 month before using them. After this time, I prefer to keep them in the fridge (which you must do once they’re opened) as the lemons can eventually discolour when stored at room temperature. The nice thing is that they keep well for at least a year, and continue to soften, mellow and only get better over time.

To use them, take out as many wedges as you need, scoop away the pulp (although I sometimes rub this over a shoulder of lamb before slow-cooking it) and slice or dice the rind finely. Top up the jar with more olive oil if necessary, so the remaining lemons stay submerged.