Did you know that salty things have gotten really popular in Japan in recent years? The Japanese word for salt is shio, and these days you can find shio yakisoba (buckwheat noodles), shiokouji (a kind of condiment), shio nabe (hotpot), and the new fad shio tomato. And now it’s even extending into the world of sweets with shio vanilla ice cream and shio chocolate. I’ve had sea salt chocolate before, and I can tell you it’s actually much better than it sounds! The latest addition to the ranks of salty goodness is shio lemon, which you can make at home yourself with just two basic and obvious ingredients.

Apparently salted lemon is used in Morocco as a seasoning. It’s basically cut lemon pickled in salt, and is very easy to make. So what can you do with it? Well, you could chop it up and put it in miso soup like yuzu, make it into a paste and use it as a rub for meat, or use it as an extract on raw squid if you’re feeling extra adventurous that day. And it stays good for two years!

Our lemon-loving writer over at RocketNews24’s sister site Pouch decided that she wanted to give this simple recipe a go. Here’s a direct quote from her, so you can see why she was suitable for this project: “I always put lemon on my karaage (fried chicken)! I add lemon before frying them! And then add more lemon!”

Unfortunately, loving all things lemony wasn’t enough to stop this turning into a bit of a disaster…

Right, time to actually do this! (Scroll down to the bottom for the full, super simple recipe).

You use the peel itself for this, so you should try and get organic, in other words pesticide-free, lemons. Our writer looked it up on the Net and found some home grown in Hiroshima at 1,980 yen (around $20 USD) for 3 kilograms. And this is where things started to go wrong, because she didn’t realize just how much 3kg was…

Her order arrived after three days…


…And it contained a lot of lemons. 30 to be precise.


She admitted that she was disappointed to find that the color and shape was inconsistent and some parts of the skins were dry. (Bear in mind that organic food is not popular in Japan, and people are used to their fruit and veg looking unbelievably perfect.)


But the problem wasn’t the look, it was the amount! What to do with them all? She didn’t have a bottle big enough to hold them all! But she did spend money on them… and shio lemon is supposed to keep for 2 years…

In the end she decided to just go for it, and use them all! We know what kind of gifts all her friends will be getting for the next two years…

Desperate time call for desperate measures. With no jar big enough to put them in, she ended up using a plastic bag. With a glass jar you can boil it in water to sterilize it but a bag would sort of melt, so she used some alcohol disinfectant spray that’s safe to use on your dishes.


Next she washed the lemons and cut them into vertical pieces, chopping off any bad bits as she went along. “Chop chop chop… argh! I’m fed up of this! I’m fed up after three lemons!” By the tenth her fingers were tingling from the acid, and by the end she proclaimed that her kitchen smelled like toilet cleaner.


Is there some special reason for cutting some horizontally and some vertically? “I got fed up of chopping vertically, so half way through I changed to cutting round slices.” It took around 20 minutes to cut them all up. There were a lot of leftover bits in the tub to the side, which she thought was quite wasteful, so she’s hanging on to them to make candied peel later.


The important question is how much salt to use? The answer to that is 10% of the weight of your lemons. But since she’d got rid of a lot of bad bits she didn’t know the weight anymore! So it was time to get out the kitchen scales – but it turned out that the bag was too heavy! Time for the bathroom scales. The total weight of the cut lemons came to 2.7 kilograms, and 10% of that is 270 grams, which is quite a lotta salt. 


“I felt like a sumo wrestler scattering salt in the sumo ring. Dosukoi!” (Dosukoi! is a shout that sumo wrestlers give.)


Next she smooshed it all around so that the lemons were completely covered in salt, and the juice started to collect at the bottom.


Usually when you’re making shio lemon, you leave it to stand for one month, shaking the container every few days to spread the salt and help it dissolve in the lemon juice. But with 3 kilograms of her concoction sitting in a plastic bag, it proved very difficult to move around. She did her best to mix it around every day as the mixture became gloopier. However…


“On the 4th day as I was enthusiastically doing my daily shake, my hands came away sticky. I gave it a lick, and it was sour! And a bit salty!” Due to the weight of the lemons and the constant movement, the bag had split!! Our writer then did the sensible thing and finally transferred the now squishy lemons into other containers. Remember that due to the acid you can’t use anything with metal, so no jam jars with metal lids. So here’s the lesson kids: Don’t try and make this in a plastic bag!

In the end she used an instant coffee can and a pitcher for iced tea. Make sure the lids are screwed on tightly!


After two weeks she decided to give her creation a taste test, and was surprised by how mild it was. There was no tooth-tingling tartness like when you bite into a raw lemon, and it also wasn’t overly salty. But the smell was still fresh and bracing. There was some sour flavour left in the peel, but this should also gradually dissipate. In conclusion, she said that“It was a pain to make, but now I’m really looking forward to it being finished!”



Lemons (as much as you like)
Salt (10% of the weight of your lemons)
Containers that don’t use metal

How to make it:
1. Wash and dry the lemons, then cut off and throw away the ends. Cut the lemons into wedges.
2. Fill the sterilized container with the salt and the lemons in layers.
3. Leave to ferment at room temperature, shaking it from time to time to dissolve the salt. If the lemons don’t release much juice, you can top it up with more.
4. Leave for around one month, and once all the salt is dissolved it’s ready! From now on keep it in the refridgerator.

It really is that simple, as long as you don’t go overboard when you’re buying the lemons!

Source and Images: RocketNews24
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