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Preserved lemons: Again

I know the topic of how to preserve lemons comes up again and again, but I am hoping for new wisdom. Last year I scrubbed my lemons, sterilized by jars (twice), and then followed the instructions in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Filled the jars with fresh lemon juiced, sliced the lemons lengthwise and shoved salt into them, then put them into the jars and kept them in the fridge. (She says you can either put them in the fridge or out, but we have a small kitchen.

Now I have 3 jars in the fridge with a nice white/blue mold on top. What did I do wrong? I assume I need to toss the lemons? I am sure we will have another windfall this year and would like to do it right.

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  1. were the lemons completely submerged in juice? I think that all the lemons had to be completely covered in the juice and salt; with no part exposed to the air. Either that or your hands were dirty when you filled the jar or took some lemons out.

    1. I'm sorry. That sucks. After a curing period (7 days if memory serves) you might want to consider sealing with a layer of olive oil on top. We make preserved lemons every year this way and never have had mold. Lasts forever.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bite bite

        Olive oil on top is a very good idea. I will try that!

      2. I am not sure what happened. Try this recipe. I use it all the time and have never had any trouble. I've had batches last at least 6 months (I've not gone beyond that as I always use them up in that amount of time.)

        PRESERVED LEMONS (I always double this recipe, I use them so much.)

        2 lemons, preferably organic
        1/3 cup Coarse Sea Salt
        1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
        About 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

        Scrub the lemons and dry them well. Cut each lemon lengthwise into 8 wedges. In a bowl, toss the lemon wedges, salt and lemon juice to coat the fruit. Transfer to a 2-cup glass container with a non-metal lid. Close the container tightly and let the lemons ripen at room temperature for 7 days. She the container daily to evenly distribute the salt and juices. To store, add olive oil to cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Tom P

          Sounds like mine -- always double, triple or quadruple though. Yum! Have seen some recipes that don't add the olive oil at the end which I imagine could seriously impact shelf-life

          1. re: bite bite

            I think TomP may have it upon the problem - shaking the jar daily. The recipe I use instructs to invert the jar every day. Perhaps that would avoid any mold growth. I've never had any problem with this. Perhaps add the shaking/ inverting to your recipe and see if that works.

          2. re: Tom P

            I found a recipe by Mike Price of The Market Table in New York City who made his lemons differently and I was wondering: is his use of sugar and no oil completely untraditional?

            - In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup coarse salt.
            - Cut 2 lemons in half crosswise, remove any visible seeds, and transfer to a small container.
            - Add sugar and salt mixture and one sprig of thyme.
            - Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 1 week.


            Also, how much of an issue is using waxed lemons. I'm sure unwaxed are preferred, but what if I'm lazy and forget?


          3. I would guess that you didn't use enough salt. You really can't have too much salt! Obviously you'll rinse the lemons before using. Also agree with comments that you need to make sure lemons are totally submerged. I've never used olive oil to "seal," but have never had a problem with spoilage.

            1. I simply wash them, cut them in half, and the put them in a jar filled to the brim with kosher salt.

              When I need to use one, I pull it out, scrape out the insides, have a perfect preserved lemon. I have found that they might be a touch salty for some recipes. So I sometimes blanch the peel before cutting it up.

              1. I have two thoughts. Were the lemons over ripe or were they Meyer lemons? Either way there may not have been enough acid.
                Olive oil on top might work but that will create an anerobic condition and, if there was not enough acid or salt in the first place, would that promote a condition for botulism? The second is a question not a declaration.

                1. I read in a well known Mediterranean cookbook (woman author, I forget the name) said not to worry about the white stuff, just rinse it off. I do the olive oil on top now, too.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: walker

                    The OP described a white/blue mold on top. This is different than the white stuff she describes. When in doubt - throw it out!

                  2. I've never had this happen, and I have kept some in the fridge for several years that were still good. What works for me has been:

                    wash/scrub lemons (un-waxed Meyers) and blanch for 2 minutes, then chill in ice water.
                    Lots of salt. Rub inside lemon generously, sprinkle on jar bottom and on top of each layer of lemons.
                    Lots of lemon juice, usually need the juice of several extra than what goes in the jar.
                    Use a jar with shoulders to help keep fruit submerged.
                    I sterilize everything and use new disposable gloves while prepping the lemons.
                    I use gloves or a sterile fork to remove finished lemons from the jar.
                    I never use oil.
                    I only use perfectly ripe fruit, no soft spots or discoloration of the pulp areas.
                    I keep it on the kitchen counter for 1 month, shaking and turning upside down daily.
                    After 1 month they go to the fridge.