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Apr 7, 2009 04:00 AM

Can preserved lemons/limes spoil?

I made a batch of preserved Mexican limes about 2 months ago using a reliable-sounding recipe I found online. It seemed to work - after 3 days I put it in the refrigerator as directed and basically left it alone. One thing led to another, and I never got around to trying them Today, I looked at the jar and the liquid was murky and thick looking, with swirls of light gray running through it.

Did it spoil? If so, what would cause it? I can't understand how anything bad could grow in that much salt.

Please advise!

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  1. Assuming you used a typical recipe for preserved lemons (i.e. lots of salt), murky and thick is normal. If "swirls of light gray" means "milky", that's normal as well, as is a rather slimy texture. If there are green or black blooms on the surface, I would toss them. I've only done lemons, and they retain most of their color, so if the limes turn gray or pale I'd toss them just to be safe.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Zeldog

      Thanks! Yes, I used what appeared to this untrained eye as a "typical" recipe - I checked a number of them before deciding on this one - and yes, there was a tremendous amount of salt involved. It's murky and thick and rather slimy - apparently normal! I don't think they discolored badly but they did turn a brighter shade of yellow. And I see no green or black spots but haven't examined each preserved lime closely. I guess I should try making something with them and if I end up hospitalized with food poisoning I'll have a definitive answer.


      1. re: joemckenna

        I'd be interested to know what you make with them! I have a few batches that are now ready and am looking for ideas. The cookbook I followed to make mine indicated that even some mold on the very top of mixture was okay and could be scraped off. I'm not sure if I would feel that way if I saw it, but that is what the book (Cooking at the Kasbah) said!

        1. re: Phoo_d

          I am thinking of starting to use them with a kind of faux tagine - "faux" because I rarely follow recipes. I just figure I'll use lamb or chicken, some tomatoes, some cumin, maybe some cinnamon, onions, garlic, and so on, and some preserved Mexican limes chopped up and thrown in near the end.

          I bet you could make an interesting faux chutney, too. Chop some sweet onions and some cilantro and part of a preserved lime or lemon, and there's your chutney, faux though it may be. Good luck!

          1. re: Phoo_d

            I found an entire website devoted to cooking with preserved lemons. I hope this helps you.

            1. re: ylmommyx4

              What a great link! Thank you so much for sharing it.

      2. Your Preserved lemons sound just fine. But I never keep mine in the Fridge. I use a large glass jar that will hold several lemons, and store it in the pantry for a year. My fav. recipe is

        Moroccan Lemon Chicken
        Chicken pieces for 2 people
        1 can Garbanzos, with canning liquid
        1 8-12 oz jar Green Olives, stuffed
        1 Tbsp Cumin
        2-3 slices of Preserved lemon - to taste

        Sear the chicken in a skillet hot & fast. Reduce the heat, add the other ingredients and about 1/2 cup of water. Cover and simmer 25-35 minutes until the chicken is done. Serve on a bed of large pearl (Israelis) couscous.

        1. I make preserved lemons all the time. And they last forever in the fridge. The recipe I use, which is from Patricia Wells, calls for them to sit out for a week, not three days. I wonder if they were not ready to do into the fridge after three days, if they are indeed spoiled? Mine never look grey... they stay a beautiful yellow, though they are indeed gloopy, at least the stuff that is not the actual lemon rind.

          PRESERVED LEMONS (I always double this)

          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.


          I use the juices that form in salad dressings, marinades, etc. My favorite way to roast a chicken, now, is to rub the insides and outside of a chicken with the juices, along with garlic, herbs and salt, and put a few of the lemons inside the cavity. Yum. You can use the juices to spread on fish or chicken before grilling, even a steak. And I love to chop up the lemons themselves and add them to couscous or salads made of grains and vegetables. There are so many uses for them.

          1. Anyone know whether it's ok to store preserved lemons in the fridge without any liquid covering them? I did that, without knowing better... and they're still there. Don't look like they are spoiled, but I'm a bit nervous to find out.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sabrina0

              Gee, I have no idea. Taste alone might not work, since they're supposed to be kind of funky tasting. But hey, what's the worst thing that can happen? You become violently ill.

              On second thought...

            2. Sabrina - I wouldn't call them Preserved Lemons if they're not in a brine!! Look for moldy patches; otherwise they should be OK.