Fermented lemons are quick and easy to put together, and they make the citrus season last the whole year through! Also known as preserved lemons, this recipe uses only salt and the lemon's own juices. These morsels are a delicious way to keep your fresh lemons ready for use in cooking when you need them.
Wash the lemons and give them a good scrub to thoroughly clean them.
Trim the top and bottom of the lemons by cutting about ¼ inch off on each end. Slice the lemons lengthwise into quarters, leaving the last ½ inch connected at the base.
Gently open the lemons and sprinkle the inside with about a teaspoon of salt. Place 1 tablespoon of salt on the bottom of a quart jar. Pack the lemons into the jar tightly using a wood muddler. Add more salt as you go, pressing the lemons down to release their juices and make room for the remaining lemons. Optional: add a couple of bay leaves and a tablespoon of peppercorns if desired.
Make sure the lemons are pressed down tightly in the jar so that the lemon juice and salt combine to make a brine. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice (of about 2 lemons) on top to completely cover the lemons in juice. Add a glass fermentation weight on top to keep the lemons submerged while they ferment.
Close the jar and allow the lemons to ferment at room temperature for about 4 weeks. Turn the jar upside down every so often to distribute the salt and juice. The lemons will soften and mellow as they sit in the pickling liquid. The lemons are ready once they soften, and the pith loses its bitterness.
Burp the jar occasionally as it ferments, especially during the first two weeks. Some juice may bubble out so keep a plate or other dish under the jar to catch any drips. Use a fermentation lid such as an airlock if you would rather skip having to burp the jar.
To use, rinse the lemons as needed with water to remove some of the salt. Remove and discard the pulp and use just the peels (though the flesh can also be used if desired).
Preserved lemons will keep for six months to a year. You can store them in the refrigerator, however they can also be stored at room temperature. The salty, acidic brine that is created during fermentation acts as a preservative.
The pickling juice can also be used over the course of a year. Just leave enough juice in the jar to always keep the lemons submerged in the brine.