Home Recipes Preserving Lemons: A Sweet Way to Save a Sour Fruit

Preserving Lemons: A Sweet Way to Save a Sour Fruit

Preserving Lemons: A Sweet Way to Save a Sour Fruit

Preserving lemons never looked or tasted so good.
plenty of lemons

Last month my friend Myra gave me some Meyer Lemons from her mother’s tree in California. I think my response was somewhere between abject gushing and that of accepting an Academy Award. Yep, just shy of tearing up and saying, “I’d like to thank Myra, her mother Fern, and all the lemon growers everywhere who elevate our culinary lives and our pucker with these sunny little orbs.”

A couple weeks later, Fern ships me an entire box. And like the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make pie.” Well, at least that’s my version. Fern’s generous gift needed attending to, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I knew I would share some of the lemons with many of my like-minded, lemon-loving friends, but I would need to preserve some of the lemons to avoid spoilage. And then it came to me, I would preserve the lemons by pureeing them whole in sugar, like my first step in making shaker lemon pie filling. Funny thing is, once I made this, I learned (through sampling, of course) that preserving lemons with sugar and by freezing captures a truly fresh lemony flavor good for just about any recipe or dish needing some brightness and citrusy notes.

How to Preserve a lot of lemons for a later day.

lots of lemonsStep 1: Scrub lemons clean and dry off.

small and large lemonStep 2: Grade lemons for size. Ideally, you want two large lemons per pint batch. If small lemons, I use four per batch.

quartered lemonsStep 3: With peel on, slice off both tip ends of each lemon, and quarter lemon lengthwise.

de-seed lemonsStep 4: With kitchen scissors, cut out the center interior pith running the length of the lemon quarter.

de seeded lemonsStep 5: Remove seeds, which is easy now, since cutting the center pith releases them.

lemons sugar pureedStep 6: Cut quarters in half and place in food processor with two cups of sugar.

Step 7: Pulse until chopped into small pieces.

Step 8: Then,  turn the food processor on for 2-3 minutes until lemon mixture is a thick puree.

lemon puree in a jarStep 9: Pour lemon-sugar puree into pint jar or ziploc bag, leaving about half an inch air space from the top.

preserving lemons in a pureed form

Step 10: Pop a lid on each jar, tighten and freeze.

preserving lemons pureed with sugar

The puree doesn’t freeze solid, but instead stays spoonable. So, should you need a dollop of fresh lemon flavor, reach for the freezer. By preserving lemons today, I have lemon pie (and more) tomorrow.

Uses for homemade Lemon Puree, in addition to Shaker Lemon Pie filling:

To Flavor

  • yogurt
  • baked goods
  • salad dressing
  • oatmeal
  • granola
  • side dishes
  • ice cream
  • brining solution
  • meat marinade
  • sauces


shaker lemon pie -Buddy's favorite
Buddy studying and stewing over who is going to get the bigger slice of pie.
tom and bj lemons
My friend BJ, asked “how do you rate?”  To which I replied, “I have no idea, but one thing’s for sure, Miss Fern has a pie coming her way when she visits the island this summer!”

Thank you Fern and Myra, from one grateful lover of lemons.

Shaker Lemon Pie: The Recipe

Shaker Lemon Pie Recipe



  1. OMG I am coveting your lemons! Nothing tastes better in the land of lemons! What a great friend you have…and….obviously, you are worthy of such a gift.

  2. Beautiful post, one sure to make your readers pucker up and drool! It occurs to me that another use might be individual glasses of lemonade, right? Blueberries for garnish? There’s nothing like lemons, and your very good friend deserves one or two of your pies next summer. 🙂

  3. What would you guestimate a measurement for the preserved lemon would be for an average lemon? Say, I might make a Shaker lemon pie with it?

    • Gin, I’d say if you made this with one average-sized lemon, I’d just cut the sugar in half, that is one lemon per one cup of sugar. For my Shaker lemon pie recipe I use 2 lemons pureed with 2 cups of sugar.

  4. Hello from V and the Furry Gang

    Visited your “You tube” and we believe that with your wonderful blog contents you may have a lot to offer the viewers wanting a delightful simple life. You seem to have the “It” factor like Casey Neistat.

    • Thanks V, okay, well then, maybe I am ready for my close-up. 😉 And as for Mr. Neistat, he certainly parlayed video into a career. I had no idea…snowboarding down the canyons of Manhattan!

  5. Great idea! I’m imagining some of the puree on toast with ricotta – nice way to start the day. Another shout-out, too, for your Shaker lemon pie recipe. It’s baked proof that there is a God who loves us and wants us to be happy!

    • Thanks Philip, and that’s what I love about it. The lemon puree, or lemon glop as I call it, is adaptable to just about any recipe or food item where you want to add a little lemony sweet-sourness to it, and enjoy the real taste of a fresh lemon.

  6. Tom, Myra sent me your blog, and I am so glad the lemons found a happy home. And your recipe for freezing them is the best!. And which I will be using from now on. It is much better then the way I have frozen them. I’ll be looking forward to the lemon pie the next time I am on Vashon. Thanks again for your kind words. Fern

    • Thank you Fern, what a wonderful surprise, and so appreciated. Those lemons were pretty darn divine. They must be what sunshine should smell like. Look forward to meeting you officially and sharing some pie on your next visit to Vashon. Take care, Tom

  7. Hi Tom,
    I love the way that this recipe uses nearly the entire lemon!
    I will make this sweet lemony goodness today in my heavy-duty blender…
    (because I just happen to have a few more lemons from Lodi!)

  8. Hi, Tom, Another great blog, and I love the way you folks on the west coast can specify which lemons you’re using. Here in Montreal, we’re lucky to get some yellow, roundish thing labeled “lemon.” I love the way you’ve preserved them in the freezer, and the next time “lemons” are on sale, I’ll definitely use your recipe. Is that second piece of lemon pie for Buddy? He certainly seems to think so!

    • Sandra, Buddy thinks every piece of pie is a potential bulldog treat. I’m really trying not to feed him people food, and so far I’m winning this battle with myself, for it is far too easy to succumb to the persuasive powers of Buddy’s mug.

  9. You have saved my last few meyer lemons, thank you so much! I had several left and could not decide what to do with them and found this! Have done as you suggest and will be using on my yogurt and many of your other suggestions. Thank you!

    • This recipe works with limes for sure, but I’m not sure how it would work if you omit the sugar, which acts as a binder and preservative. Give it a try and report back here if you like.

  10. You are using 2-4 lemons with 2 cups sugar? My mom has a very prolific meyer lemon tree in Sonoma, I may give this a try next time she sends me lemons. Have you tried less sugar, or is 2 cups the perfect amount for your taste?

    • Hi Eliz, good question. I use two cups of sugar so I know I can use this mixture for my Shaker Lemon Pie/Tart filling, and the proportions work nicely. Because we’re using the whole lemon, rinds and all, sugar balances the outcome. But, if you were making this and never going to use it for a pie, and just want a flavor enhancer or lemon booster in recipes, say one or two teaspoon or tablespoons at a time, then I’d say you could use one cup of sugar. The sugar is your preservative, even when you freeze or can it. While 2 cups seem like a lot, I have to remind my myself, I’m only using a spoonful or pie slice at a time. Report back, with your impressions if you use less sugar. Cheers!

      Shaker Lemon Tart/Pie Recipe: http://tallcloverfarm.com/7694/shaker-lemon-pie-makeover-tart-in-the-making

      • Thank you Tom. For the pie/tart filling, are you just adding the salt, butter, flour and eggs to this puree of two lemons and 2 cups sugar?
        Do you prefer meyer lemons for your shaker tart? I like meyer for some things, but for lemon bars and some other desserts, I prefer Eureka lemon.

  11. I understand the freezing will last indefinitely. But if I were to keep a jar in the refrigerator, what is your guestimate on shelf life? Would it “spoil” like ferment or mold or anything gross that would deem it inedible? Would love to know if you or any of your followers has or knows where to find a “how to” for actually canning style sugar preserved Meyer lemons. We just bought a house last year with two Meyer Lemon trees and this will be my first harvest. My husband will swear the only reason I wanted this house was because of these two beautiful healthy trees. I love Meyer Lemons! Any answers or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    • Hi JB, I think that is a perfectly sound reason to buy a house: for the fruit trees, and especially Meyer Lemons. To answer your questions, I just found a jar of the meyer lemon slurry I made in the back of the refrigerator. Who knows how long it’s been there, I’m thinking at least 3-4 months and likely much much longer as citric acid and sugar are preservatives. As for canning, you can do that too, I just placed the sealed pint jar in a simmering water bath for 15 minutes; and between the sugar and the citric acid in the lemon juice, it keeps really well. The mixture may separate that is liquids and solids in the jar, but that’s not big deal, just mixed it up when you’re ready to use it. Good luck, and congratulations on your new abode!

  12. Oh Tom…This sounds delightful. I also receive a generous bounty from my cousin in SoCal. She has an every bearing Bearss Lime (aka Persian Lime) tree and she sends boxes to me. The Bearss Lime is to other limes what the Meyer is to other lemons…thin skinned, almost seedless, juicy, and sweet. I usually wash them and leave some on the counter and put the rest in plastic bags in the freezer. Some people juice them and freeze the juice but I find it easier to freeze them whole and then when I want one I just set it out to defrost…or if I am in a hurry I will defrost one faster in a glass of water…You can also just grate the frozen lime (or lemon) , peel and all, into salad dressing or pie. I also make fermented Moroccan Salted Limes which is more of a tangy, salty, sour, condiment for adding to rice or chicken or veggies. I so love your inspiring blog and all the recipes and tales of Vashon Island and the beauty and generosity you share.

    • Thank you Sal, for the kind words and for sharing the info about Bearss Limes. It’s so funny you mention them, because I was visiting my mom and we were on Bearss Ave. near Tampa, and I wonder if it was the same name related to the lime. Bingo, it was and that’s where they started. Small world. Take care, and again, thank you Sal.

  13. Tom, you are a genius. I left a Meyer lemon tree behind in Florida. I can just imagine opening up the freezer and dipping a spoon in every now and then to check if they still taste good. Wink. Enjoy !!

  14. What volume of the lemon sugar mix do you use per pie. I made a couple of batches but froze it in one container. Thanks!

    • Hi Susan, I would use 2 Cups of lemon-sugar mixture per pie. I too tend make a large batch, and then I just pour into pint jars and freeze, so yes, one pint (2 cups) per pie.

  15. I’ve wanted to try this since I first saw your post way back. Well Tom it is just fantastic. I was skeptical (forgive me)…but oh my. Thank you. It’s a keeper. Tom have you tried this with limes..perhaps the variety Bearss mentioned by another follower? Yours in citrus 😊

    • Thanks Brenda, glad you like it and it worked out! As for doing the same with limes, it really doesn’t taste good. The limes are so bitter when rind is included. I made a lime pie that just wasn’t worth repeating. 😉


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