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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Chanh Muối (Salted Preserved Lemons)

Happy New Year! 
Going back to blogging after a long absence can be too difficult but I must overcome the laziness, beat procrastination and get motivated. Thanks to the preserved lemon jars that keep staring at me every time I am in the kitchen. That's my muse to resume blogging although I hadn't planned to write about it.

So my friend's lemon tree is full of beautiful, juicy, thin-skinned lemons and he doesn't know what to do with all of them. I took a full basket of them home and preserved in salt and water. I've had these lemons fermenting on the kitchen counter for almost a month. The fermentation is going to take a little while to complete due to the lack of sunlight in the wintertime. The finished lemons should be salty, tangy and nicely soften but as of this post, mine are not there yet. 

This morning the lemon jars caught my eyes again. I went by and unscrewed the jar lid and whiffed up a wonderful distinctive scent of salt and slightly sweet brine. I took out one lemon, a couple tablespoons of lemon brine and mash it in a mason glass jar, added a couple tablespoons of sugar, poured in club soda, stirred it well, and tossed in a few cubes of ice. Voila - I have a wonderful lemonade - uniquely flavored and delicious. One sip and summer comes rushing back. Oh how I love the nostalgia.
RECIPE:  Chanh Muối

Lemons or Limes 
Pickling Salt (available at Walmart) 
a Glass Jar, sanitized

Preparing a Brine Solution

Pickling salt- salt is one of the key ingredients in the pickling process. Pickling salt is pure granulated salt (sodium chloride). It does not contain anti-caking ingredients, which can turn pickling liquid cloudy, or additives like iodine, which can make pickles dark. In addition, pickling salt has fine granules that make it easy to dissolve in a brine.  

The ratio of salt to water for a brine is 4 tablespoons of salt per 1 quart (4 cups) of water.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Turn off the heat. Add pickling salt. Dissolve the salt in water.  Let it cool to room temperature. 
Preparing Lemons

Wash and scrub lemons thoroughly to remove any dirt.

Cut off the top and bottom of the lemon so that a little flesh is showing.

Preserving Lemons

Pack the lemons tightly into a jar and pour the cooled salt water over them. Make sure the lemons are completely covered in the salt water so that they are protected from mold and other bacteria that would cause decay. If your lemons won’t stay submerged, you can break a chopstick into halves and wedge it inside the jar to form a crisscrossed grill. Wipe any salt residue off the rim and seal the jar with a lid.

In the hot days, leave the jar outside where they will get sunlight. When the lemons are done, the lemons will turn darker and the brine becomes a little bit cloudier. These lemons will be ready after one month of preserving, and will last for at least 2 years. It can be kept at room temperature and does not need to be refrigerated. Just remember to use clean utensil to scoop the lemons out every time.

When fermenting lemons or vegetables, it is common to see a white layer forming on top of the liquid. The white film is usually a type of yeast known as kahm yeast and is quiet safe. Kahm yeast can form for a variety of reasons: insufficiently acidic; there is not enough salt in the brine; the batch is over-exposed to oxygen; good hygiene was not observed during preparation. 
If kahm yeast develops in your ferment, skim it off.

Preserved Lemons can be used for cooking or making drinks. Sparkling salted lemonade is a common refreshing drink in southern Vietnam. Make yourself a jar of salted preserved lemons and enjoy it when spring arrives.

Eat Well. Stay hungry. . . and drink homemade salted preserved lemonade. 


  1. It is quite difficult to begin blogging again, but persistence is the key! Posting a lot, and visiting other blogs can keep you inspired and connected! I recently returned to blogging after several years. Thanks for the recipe and I am going to try to make my own pickled lemons now!

  2. Hi Chi Loan,
    Thay vi turn off the heat and then add salt as you said. I forgot I added salt with water and boiled them together. Is it ok chi ? t

  3. Yours is the first chanh muoi piece I've read that had a name for the mold that forms a skin on top of the brine! Glad to know it's not harmful. Thanks for the info! :)

  4. Hi Annette,

    I started this last month and didn't realize one of my lemons had floated to the top and it had a small mold spot that formed. I removed it but will the others be okay? or The mold spot was not in the water and the others look fine. OR should I just scrap everything and start over?


    1. Was it a white layer forming on top? If it is, it's quiet safe.