Preserved Meyer Lemons

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Last Thanksgiving, the coat came out of the hall closet. It had been preserved in time, packed in amongst seventies-printed blazers and other types of unused outerwear. (What other outerwear exists besides blazers and coats, you wonder. Why my mother’s leather poncho, of course.)

The coat looked pristine, with not a single thread poking out from the checkered wool pattern or a missing button the double-breasted front. And the faux fur collar was in perfect, unmatted condition. The coat was more than thirty years old, but had only in seen the light of day for a single, wintry season.

How it came to be had also been preserved in that closet for almost as long, but once we learned of its existence, its story naturally followed.

When my father left India, he did so knowing that a hospital job awaited him in a south Chicago hospital. His airfare was purchased. His food and housing would be covered, his life so busy that he would not need have time to spend much money. He, therefore, in good conscious, could journey to lands unknown, without credit cards and in a time before ATMs, with eight or nine dollars in his pocket.

His first stop was a layover in London, England, where a well-meaning cousin informed him that his meager wardrobe would not hold up in the snowy, wind-whipped West, that the first line of business must be a shopping trip to purchase a proper winter coat. The price tag, a mere six or seven dollars. A younger version of my father did not flinch at the fact that he would be now traveling practically penniless, rejecting his cousin’s offers for some additional funds.

Someone offered to carry his luggage and find him a taxi when he arrived at the airport in Chicago. Not having the money for a tip, he respectively declined and walked out to the curb, carrying his bags himself. He waited for a taxi while swaddled in warmth from his new purchase. A kindly, Indian man approached him. My father must have screamed, “I am a newly-arrived immigrant! Someone told me that I needed this coat! I have only pennies in my pocket!” because, after the man asked him where he was coming from and where he was going, the man offered him assistance. He was concerned and wanted my father to know that things were different here than in India. My father thanked him, but explained that everything had been arranged. He had a letter, and now also a coat.

Unlike his cousin and the Indian man he met at the airport, my father had not spent enough time in the West to be preoccupied with money. He had a letter. This letter said that his expenses would be paid for when he arrived, and in his mind, that meant the taxi in which he was now riding. When he arrived at the hospital, he got out of the taxi and the driver went to the reception to collect his fare. The few remaining dollars in his pocket untouched and unnecessary.

Times have changed, and there is no way that this story would look the same if it were to occur today. My father would never travel without easy access to a decent sum of money. He would not be able to find a coat that costs six dollars, nor would his current taste allow him to buy one in that Piccadilly style. Random strangers would not offer him money. And a taxi driver would not give him a ride based on the promise of letter. Yet, the story does exist. Thankfully, it has been preserved in the closet with my father’s coat.



Preserved Meyer Lemons

I use a 1-quart Mason jar, which can hold about 6-8 medium-sized lemons. Once they are ready to use, I generally discard the pulp and only use the rind in recipes. I have read that you can use the pulp. I know when my grandmother makes lemon achar, which is similar to these preserved lemons, we eat the whole thing.

8 – 10 Meyer (preferably organic) lemons
½ cup of kosher or sea salt
3 whole, dried chile pods

Thoroughly wash the lemons.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of salt on the bottom of a 1-quart jar.

Slice of the hard end of each lemon. Make two intersecting slices in each lemon, separating the lemon into four quarters, without cutting all the way through the bottom. The lemon should open up but remain whole because the four quarters are still attached at the base.

Jam in about a teaspoon of salt into each lemon. Shove each salt-filled lemon into the jar, allowing their juices to come out as they will.

Cover the lemons with the juice of two additional lemons, or as needed.

Add the chile pods and cover tightly. Gently shake the lemons to help distribute the salt and juice.

Let the lemons rest, unrefrigerated for 3 weeks to a month, until the skins turn lightly translucent.

Use in soups and grain salads, like this one. Once open, keep refrigerated for up to a year.

Comments (3)


  1. […] 3 cups of wild arugula ¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled 1 tablespoon chives, snipped 1 tablespoons preserved lemon peel, finely […]

  2. Pam says:

    I saw this on your shelf! They look very beautiful. Want to hear more about what you’re using them in.

  3. sareena says:

    what a sweet birthday entry for dad. i love you.

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