Egyptian farm-house pickled lemons


When the season is right and lemons are abundant and cheap, Insaf, who lives in a village in the Egyptian province of Dakahleya, makes sure to stock up on  them for an Egyptian specialty.

She buys them from the farmer’s market held once a week on Thursdays.

Now that September is here, the prices of lemons have started to go down, from LE5 or more in the peak summer season of July and August, to a cheaper LE3 or so by October.

This is the perfect time for Insaf to buy lemons and begin the pickling process for the upcoming season.

Pickles lemons (photo: Ms Marmite Lover)

Pickled lemons

Other fermented foods are also in stock at her home, such as mish: cottage cheese fermented in earthen-ware vessels, most often with orange rind.

“Mish”, cottage cheese fermented in earthen ware (photo: Al Maghfera)

Like many other foods in the Egyptian countryside, mish is a staple whose name dates to Pharaonic times.

A variety of pickled vegetables grace Insaf’s simple table including turnips, onions, carrots and, the occasional cucumber.

Pickles (photo: A Taste Of Travel Blog)

But the most savoury treat of all, relished even by the children of the family, remains the pickled lemons.

Pickled lemons retain much of their nutritive value in the form of vitamins C and B, and when eaten in moderate amounts, they can stimulate the appetite and aid in digestion.

Insaf prepares her pickled lemons with minimal ingredients. She does not add the usual “safflower” which usually accompanies Moroccan-style pickled lemon recipes.

I must warn though, that these particular pickled lemons are not for those who do not tolerate spicy foods.

This is because they are delightfully and deliciously…hot.

The lemons’ spiciness can be moderated by reducing the amount of peppers used, or by eliminating them altogether.

However, totally removing the peppers from this recipe will detract from its distinctive flavour.


500 g of lemons

250 g of small hot green peppers (sheteita in Arabic)

1 small pack of salt approx. 200g

1 litre of fresh lemon juice

Large glass jar, sterilised (wash and dry in oven at 180 degrees, or boil for ten minutes and leave to dry cut side up)

(photo: Word Press)


Cover the lemons with water and bring to a boil until tender.

Remove and put in a glass or earthen-ware dish.

Cover the lemons with cold water for 2 to 3 days, changing the water daily.

Remove the lemons from water and place in the sterilized glass jar.

Sprinkle salt and green peppers on every layer of lemons.

Add the lemon juice so it covers the lemons.

Seal the jar and leave at room temperature for ten days.

The liquid will have risen to the top of the jar.

Open the jar and cover the surface of the lemons with olive oil.

They will be ready to eat within one month from preparation.

(photo: Hungry Tigress)