Technique Tuesday: How to Preserve with Salt

How to preserve whole lemons in a jar with one of the easiest preserving methods; preserving with salt

how to preserve with salt

Today we start a new, occasional series – Technique Tuesday. My goal is to present a new preserving technique, or a new preserving technique approach, on several Tuesdays throughout the year. We start with what has to be just about the quickest and easiest preserving method around; preserving with salt.

Why Preserve with Salt?

In the not-to-distant past, before every home had electricity and a working refrigerator, many foods were preserved with salt. Even though I am not quite ancient, I remember classmates bringing salted dulse to school for snacks and my grandmother cooking with salt pork and salt cod.

Salting is a little less common today, but we still make and use salt preserved foods like capers either packed in salt or brine (which is a salty liquid mixture), salt-processed bacon, and brined olives.

Salting is one way to keep perishable foods edible for a long period of time. Like all preserving techniques, salting changes the flavor somewhat. It is always best to rinse salt preserved foods well before eating.

How Does Salt Preserve Food?

Basically, salt preserves food by pulling the water out of the cells. No water in cells means bacteria can’t grow – since like most living things bacteria needs moisture to live. Removing the water also shrinks the food item and makes it wrinkly. Ever notice how salt cured olives are all wrinkly? Olives cured in brine have more liquid available and thus are usually plump.

How to Preserve Whole Lemons in a Jar

Salt preserved lemons are easy to make and delicious to eat. You need only 4 ingredients; lemons, sea salt, lemon juice, a jar.

You can use any kind of lemon you want here. Some people prefer to salt thin skinned Meyer lemons. Others prefer robust everyday lemons. I have used this same recipe to preserve both Persian limes and Key limes too.

how to preserve whole lemons in a jar

I like to use coarse sea salt. Actually any kind or texture of salt will work, but regular table salt may cause cloudiness due to its additives. Kosher salt or sea salt is best.

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Technique Tuesday: How to Preserve with Salt
You can use any kind of lemon you want here. Some people prefer to salt thin skinned Meyer lemons. Others prefer robust everyday lemons. I have used this same recipe to preserve both Persian limes and Key limes too.
Recipe type: Condiment
Serves: 1 quart
Prep time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 pound lemons
  • ⅓ cup sea salt
  • Additional bottled lemon juice or additional lemons
  • 1 quart Mason jar
  1. Wash and scrub lemons.
  2. Cut each lemon into quarters – but keep them attached at the stem edge. Don’t worry if you mistakenly cut all the way through, it still works.
  3. Stuff each lemon with the salt.
  4. Put into the jar, pushing down with a wooden spoon.
  5. If any salt is leftover, add it to the jar.
  6. Cover jar and place in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  7. After 3-4 days, press the lemons down again with a wooden spoon. Add more lemon juice if necessary to fully cover the lemons.
  8. Return jar to the refrigerator for at least a month.

Recipes Using Preserved Lemons

There we have it – an easy food preservation project. But what on earth will we do with the finished product?

Preserved lemons add an unexpected touch of umami to salads, dressings, entrées, and more. Later this summer we will be sharing some of my favorites – sure to be your favorites too.

by Renee Pottle

Renee Pottle, a freelance writer and Home Economist, is fanatic about all things food. She blogs about canning and food preservation at Find her professional food writing info at

June 26, 2018

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  1. Pat Crow

    The store has big beautiful organic lemons on sale. Time to try this. Will they keep for a long time? Thanks, PC

    • admin

      Pat, they usually last anywhere from 6 months to a year in the refrigerator. Although I have never kept them around for a full year – usually eat them all before that!


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