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Preserved lemons, sold loose in the markets of Northern Africa and are an important ingredient of Moroccan cooking--used in a variety of tagines, stews and other dishes. Because of their one-of-a-kind texture and flavor, fresh lemon or lime juice don't make reliable substitutions. Regular lemons from the grocery work just fine and Meyer lemons add a special fruitiness to the finished pickle, so use them if you happen to find them. For the best success, make sure the lemons are completely covered with the salted lemon juice, and to prevent spoilage, only use a clean spoon or fork to remove them from the jar. Don't let the amount of salt throw you too much, the pickles are rinsed off well before being used. The pickling liquid also makes an interesting addition to dressings, sauces, or Bloody Marys. Also check out my recipe for Preserved Lemon Cheesecake.
- Juice four of the lemons and set the juice aside for later. Wash the remaining lemons well in warm water and cut them in half lengthwise; cut the halves lengthwise again, stopping about 1/2-inch from the bottom, leaving the quarters attached. Add one tablespoon salt to the bottom of a clean 1-quart jar (wide mounth is best) Then sprinkle the remaining salt generously in the cuts of each half and all over the exposed flesh of the lemons. Layer in the jar, cut side down, adding the bay leaves, allspice and peppercorns as you go.
- Press down on the lemons to release their juices and to make sure they fit in the jar. (If the juice released from the pressed fruit does not cover them completely, add additional fresh lemon juice to cover completely. Leave about 1/2-inch headspace in the jar and seal tightly.
- Let the lemons macerate for 30 days in a warm, dark place, shaking or turning the jar every day or two to distribute the salt and juice. After 30 days, store the lemons in the refrigerator for up to one year.
- To use, rinse the lemons as needed under running water; remove and discard the pulp, if desired.