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Preserving lemon using gros sel gris de Guérande

Preserved lemon is a classic ingredient in North African and Middle Eastern cooking, adding a unique citrus taste to tagines and salads.

Preserved lemons can be bought, ready preserved in jars, but most cooks agree there’s no substitute for those you produce yourself.  The method is simple to follow and will give you a lovely supply of lemons ready to use in about four weeks.  We used our gros sel gris de Guérande in this recipe because, as a natural, untreated sea salt, it won’t introduce any chemicals or additives to your lemons.  Make these for yourself, or choose a pretty jar and make up a batch as a perfect gift for a foodie friend.

Serves: 1


  • 1 glass preserving jar (0.5-litre capacity)
  • 3-4 small or medium unwaxed, organic lemons
  • 3-4 heaped tablespoons (approx 60-80g) gros sel gris de Guérande
  • The juice of 3-4 additional lemons

preserved lemons gros sel gris scaled


Your choice of jar is crucial as it must have a tight-fitting lid with a rubber seal to stop the lemons from oxidising while they ferment.  We used a 0.5 litre Kilner clip-top jar for this recipe, which was big enough to squeeze in three medium-sized lemons. Other similar jars are available, and you may fit in more lemons depending on their shape and size. If you want to make up a larger jar, plan for a heaped tablespoon (around 20g) of salt for each additional lemon and the same number of extra lemons so that you have enough lemon juice to cover. Start by sterilising the jar.  You can either fill the jar with boiling water or put it through the hot cycle of your dishwasher. To prepare each lemon, stand it on its end on a cutting surface, stalk side down.  Cut down through the lemon but stop about an inch short of the end, then cut down as if to quarter it, again stopping an inch short so that you have four wedges still joined together. Open the wedges slightly, then spoon a heaped tablespoon (roughly 20g) of gros sel gris into the lemon, then push the wedges back together.  Do this over a bowl so that any salt that falls out can be used for the other lemons. As you fill each lemon with the salt, place it into the jar, squeezing them into the available space and releasing some of the juice as you do so.  Depending on the size and shape of your jar and the size of the lemons, you should fit in three lemons and possibly a fourth.  Once the lemons are in the jar, add the lemon juice, filling the jars until all the lemons are covered.  This will require at least three lemons but possibly more, again depending on their shape and size. You can now seal the jar, but you may wish to add herbs and spices at this stage. Consider adding your preferred combinations of fresh sprigs of rosemary or thyme, bay leaf, whole red chillies, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cloves, cinnamon quills and star anise. This will not affect the taste of the lemons, but it makes the jar look attractive, especially if you are planning to give it to someone as a gift. Seal the jar and leave overnight.  The next day, check that the lemons are still submerged and if not, top up with more lemon juice.  Reseal the jar and store it in a cool, dark cupboard. For the first week, turn the jar over each day to redistribute the salt, then leave for at least a further three weeks to allow the lemons to ferment properly.  

How To Serve

To use, rinse in water to remove excess salt, then remove and discard the pulp.  Use the remaining preserved lemon peel to flavour tagines, stews and salads.

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