Preserved Lemons/Tagine of Lamb, Tomato, Green Beans, and Sesame

Sunday October 5, 2014

carolyn jung's preserved lemons on the ktichen counter

Preserved lemons are made by soaking lemons in a brine solution made of lemon juice, plus salt, sugar, or a combination of the two, until the lemons turn pulpy and soft. They are used as a distinctive condiment or flavor accent in Moroccan cuisine, but have gone on to be so popular and addictive that they show up in everything from gingerbread to rice pilaf, couscous, and salad dressings.

Julie and I included the recipe in our Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbooks since we included the condiment in some of our meat stews. Julie used Carolyn Jung’s (our senior editor at the newspaper) recipe for the lemons, which had run in the Mercury News in the past. Carolyn had learned the technique from Moroccan food expert Kitty Morse in a cooking class.With all the rage of fermentation in the home kitchen, preserved lemons have their place.

You will need to make the preserved lemon about 2 weeks ahead to make a dish, so plan ahead, as this is the traditional method for making the lemons. Don’t skimp on the salt, as it is essential to the preserving process. The fruit will change, day by day, into the tart, pulpy preserved lemons.

We adore the mystical quality the preserved lemon adds to a dish and hope you do, too.  If it is a new condiment for you, do take the bold step to try it. Preserved lemons add a salty element, as well as a deeply tangy lemony flavor, to foods. Just finely chop the lemons and add to a dish during cooking, or at the end as a flavor accent. You can eat them raw or cooked.

This is a recipe for homegrown, unsprayed lemons, either the tart Eureka or the sweet Meyer, which has a thinner, more tender rind. This recipe also works with limes.


About 6 to 8 juicy fresh lemons, thin-skinned Meyers if possible

About 2/3 cup fine kosher salt

Clean quart glass jar with a tight-fitting lid


Wash the lemons and dry them thoroughly. Using a clean dry knife, quarter the lemons, remove any seeds, and trim and discard the ends. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of salt in the bottom of the jar.  Layer the lemons into the jar, alternating with salt, adding 1 tablespoon of salt for each whole lemon. As you reach the top of the jar, press down on the lemons to cram as many pieces as possible into the jar (As you do this, the lemons will exude their juice.). When the jar is tightly packed, the level of juice will have risen to or near the top of the jar.

Seal the jar and gently shake it to mix the salt and juice. If you are having trouble submerging the lemons, fill the space at the top of the jar with a piece of crumpled plastic wrap.

Place the jar on a counter top out of direct sunlight and shake it gently

every day. In the first few days, as the lemons begin to soften, they may pack down enough to allow you to add another lemon or two. Do so if you can to keep the jar full.

The lemons are ready to use when they are mushy and the juice is syrupy. This will take 2 weeks (be sure to note the date you make them so you won’t lose tract the first time, until you know how they are supposed to look when ready. Then you can make them by culinary instinct.). Once you begin to use the lemons, store the jar in the refrigerator, where it will keep for several months.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2005, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

tagines cook over charcoal braziers...the slow cooker is far easier...just plug it in

Slow Cooker Tagine of Lamb, Tomato, Green Beans, and Sesame

Tagines are the stews of Morocco, and made in a deep-glazed earthenware casserole dish with a conical lid that looks like the top of a futuristic building. They were created for slow cooking in an open fire then served with couscous to soak up the juices. The electric slow cooker is an exact replica technique-wise for modern cooks and makes a perfectly cooked tagine with far less work. Choose the leanest lamb you can find; well-trimmed leg meat is perfect. Shoulder is flavorful but often is not lean enough.


Recommended Size: 3 quart cooker

Machine Setting: Low

Cook Time: 6 to 8 hours

Serves 2


1 1/2 pounds lean boneless lamb, preferably from the leg or shoulder, trimmed of some fat and cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

One 3-inch cinnamon stick

3 green cardamom pods

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon each dried thyme, ground ginger, and tumeric

Few shakes cayenne

3/4 cup water

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 fresh or 3 canned plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

12-ounces fresh green beans, sliced lengthwise in half

3 to 4 tablespoons minced preserved lemon

1 heaping tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted in a dry skillet until golden, for garnish


Pat the lamb dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb on all sides, working in batches, if necessary. As it browns, remove to a plate, then add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the crock, spreading them evenly over the bottom. Place the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, and bay leaf on top. If you are worried about eating them, tie them into a small square of cheesecloth so you can remove them easily for serving. add the spices, water, tomato paste, tomatoes, and parsley.

Cover and cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours, until the meat is fork-tender. At 5 hours, blanch the green beans in boiling salted water until nearly tender, but still firm; add to the crock. Stir in the preserved lemon at the end of cooking while still hot.

Before serving, remove the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and, if desired, the cardamom pods. Season to taste and serve with couscous and sprinkled with the sesame seeds.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker For Two, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2006, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2014

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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