Foodie Gifts: Preserved Whole Lemons

This holiday season, we’re focussing on food recipes that can double up as beautiful foodie gifts for friends and family.  It turns gifting into something thoughtful and special instead of the mad frenzy of Christmas consumerism – people so appreciate beautiful hand-crafted gifts made with love.

So, make the decision this festive season to slow down, spend a calm hour or two in your kitchen making something gorgeous! Everyone should have a jar or two of preserved lemons in their kitchen cupboards. They immediately lift any dish with their deliciously surprising citrus-tart flavour-burst!  And no, you can’t substitute fresh lemons – they don’t have the same florally fragrant, lemony zest flavour of preserved lemons.

Apart from being a must-have ingredient in Moroccan tagines and couscous dishes, preserved lemons can be added to salad dressings, aioli, pasta sauces, chicken stews, fruit pie fillings and even pancake batter for extra lemony-zing. This recipe was created by Tahila Pillay, a student at Jackie Cameron’s School of Food & Wine.

Now you know exactly what to do when life hands you lemons!

Tahila’s Preserved Whole Lemons


1 cup Fine Oryx Desert Salt

2 whole lemons

20 black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

Juice of 8 lemons, or as needed

¼ cup olive oil


  1. Pour 1.5cm of salt into two small jars, big enough to fit 1 whole lemon.
  2. Cut each lemon lengthwise into quarters, stopping about 1cm from the stem end so that the lemon wedges stay attached.
  3. Spread the lemons open, salt the inside of one lemon generously then push the wedges together to “close” the lemon. Place one lemon into each jar, pressing it down slightly. (Obviously, if you have a larger jar you can double up and add more lemons to one jar.)
  4. Add 10 peppercorns, 1 bay leave and ¼ cup of salt to each jar.
  5. The lemons will have released some juice. Add enough additional juice to cover the lemon, pressing down slightly to compress them.
  6. Top each jar up with one-eighth of a cup of olive oil and cover jar.
  7. Put the jars in a pantry or other cool, dark spot and let stand for at least one month, or for up to six months.
  8. Decorate bottles and lids to make a perfect Christmas gift.
  9. To use, remove a lemon from the jar, rinse well to remove excess saltiness, and chop up the rind according to the recipe. Usually, it’s the rind that gets used and flesh is discarded, but it’s perfectly fine to use the flesh as well, especially in stews and tagines.
  10. Refrigerate once opened.