What to buy: Look for lemons that don’t have any wax on the outside—organic lemons tend to be unwaxed. If you can only find conventional lemons, wash them briefly under very hot water to remove any wax.
Special equipment: You will need a resealable quart jar, a band, and a new lid for storing the lemons. A wide-mouth canning jar works best.
Game plan: You’ll need to begin this recipe the night before, by soaking the lemons.
1Soak the lemons in cold water overnight, weighing them down with a plate or plastic bag filled with water. Drain and dry the lemons with a towel.
2Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat (the pot needs to be deep enough so the water covers the 1-quart jar). Place the clean, wide-mouth quart jar, band, and lid in the water and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off, leaving the jar in the water until ready to use. Remove the band and lid and dry with a clean towel; set aside.
3Working over a medium bowl, take 7 of the lemons and make 4 equally spaced lengthwise slits in each, starting about 1/2 inch below the stem and ending about 1/2 inch above the base. Cut through the skin, stopping at the center of the lemon. Squeeze each lemon gently from top to bottom so the slits pop open, then sprinkle the interior with 1 heaping tablespoon of the salt, making sure the salt gets into the center. Let any excess salt or lemon juice fall into the bowl.
4Remove the jar from the pot and shake out any excess water; set aside. Add the remaining salt and the spices to the bowl and stir to combine. Drop some of the salt-spice mixture into the jar and add the lemons one at a time, compacting each with a wooden spoon until it releases its juice and is packed very tightly. Alternate layers of the salt-spice mixture and lemons, adding all of the mixture and stopping when you reach the shoulder of the jar. If the lemons are not completely covered with their own juices, squeeze the juice from the 3 remaining lemons and pour it into the jar. Seal the jar and place it in a warm, bright spot.
5Once a day for the first week, shake the jar and carefully open it over the sink to let out any excess gas. After the first week, the fermentation will slow and you’ll only need to shake and “burp” the jar once every 7 days. After about a month, the liquid will clear and the lemons will be ready to use. They will keep for up to 2 months in the refrigerator.