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Preserved lemons, Middle Eastern style

What do you do when you have a big Meyer lemon tree in the backyard, producing hundreds of lemons?

Of course, you can do the obvious, make lemonade. That's what our next door neighbors did with a bag of lemons I gave them.

Or you can bake lemon meringue pies, lemon bars, use the lemons for cleaning, or as part of a delicious vinaigrette.

My colleagues at work are happy to be the recipients of these delicious lemons.

And now, for the first time I am preserving the lemons, Middle Eastern style.

The process takes at least five weeks.

The photo above shows stage one:

Sterilize a clean glass jar with a lid, by pouring boiling water into the jar and on the washed lid.

Leave the boiled water in the jar for a minute, then pour it out.

Let the jar and lid air dry.

Wash and dry enough unwaxed, organic lemons to fill and fit into the jar (test how many before you sterilize the jar). In the jar above there are seven lemons.

Cut a cross into each lemon vertically from the top down, until 3/4 inch from the bottom, and pack each lemon with about 1 tablespoon of coarse salt. Fill the jar with the lemons, squeezing them together.

Close the lid and store the jar in a cool, dark place for a week.

After a week, open the jar and with a clean large spoon press the lemons together to release more of the juice.

Add the juice of 6 freshly squeezed lemons to the lemons in the jar.

Add 2 clean sprigs of rosemary and a large red chili pepper. (I didn't use a chili pepper, just 2 sprigs of rosemary). Pour a thin film of olive oil over the top.

Close the lid again, and put the jar back in a cool, dark place.

And now you wait for at least four weeks until the lemons are ready to use.

The longer you let the lemons sit in the jar, the better the taste.

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