Someone Please Tell Me What to do With Preserved Lemons. (Also, a Scofflaw Recipe)


Illustration: Tram Nguyen


There’s a great little Middle Eastern market in my neighborhood where I go to stock up on fresh pita, whole spices, and spinach pies. A few months ago, I threw a jar of preserved lemons and pomegranate molasses in my shopping basket. I’d never used either ingredient, but I had vague Nigella Lawson/kitchen goddess-related aspirations and she uses them a lot in her cooking. I took the lemons and molasses home, envisioning exotically-spiced poultry and complicated tagines in my future. Maybe I’d start referring to eggplant as “aubergine.” Maybe I’d even stop hating eggplant.

I had ample opportunities to cook with the preserved lemons. Many Nigella and Ottolenghi cookbooks were paged through (and never cooked from). I’d bring home a nice plump roasting chicken from the butcher and think, I should really use those preserved lemons. And then I’d be like, naaaaah, and would opt instead for my favorite Jacques Pepin recipe which has never let me down. I can make his quick-roasted chicken pretty much blindfolded at this point, and my friends have requested it on countless occasions. Why would I stray from a good thing?

That little jar of citrus languished in the hinterlands of my refrigerator for months, staring accusingly at me every time I opened the door. Supposedly preserved lemons last forever in the fridge, but enough time had passed that I was squeamish about cooking with them. Finally, I tossed them in the trash. That bottle of pomegranate molasses seemed still edible. Determined to not repeat my mistakes, I turned to my best friend, the Internet, for ways to use up this ingredient. And the Internet told me to make grenadine. I’d always assumed that bottle of garish red syrup was cherry flavored, but it turns out I’m mistaken. Real grenadine is just pomegranate juice, sugar, and perhaps some orange blossom or rose water to make it fragrant. The pomegranate molasses just adds extra concentrated flavor. “But I’m not a bow-tied mixologist! Why should I even bother?” you cry.

Unlike experimenting with a new tagine, which could lead to tears and maybe dinner in the garbage, this particular recipe requires an investment of maybe five minutes of your life and is impossible to mess up. Grenadine is super easy to make, there are no iffy ingredients like high-fructose anything, and it will taste ten times better than anything store-bought. But most importantly, you will feel so fancy busting out a bottle of the homemade stuff every time you make a drink.

I’ve tried a few drink recipes with my batch of grenadine, but my favorite so far is the Scofflaw. It’s a prohibition-era cocktail, named after the bootleggers of that time. I’ve been testing this cocktail all week, finally settling on a proportion of sweet to tart, and just a little bit of bitter that I think is really nicely balanced. Seriously, so many trials you guys! We at Pen & Palate are nothing if not dedicated to bringing you the most thoroughly vetted alcoholic drink recipes.


Adapted From Jeffrey Morenthaler

Makes about 3 cups

2 c. pomegranate juice (If you have a juicer and don’t mind your kitchen looking like a crime scene, by all means, make your own. I used a bottle of POM Wonderful.)
1 c. cane sugar
2 oz. pomegranate molasses
1 tsp. orange blossom water or rose water
1 oz. vodka (Optional, if you plan on using this within the month. Otherwise, the vodka helps it keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.)

In a sauce pan, heat all the ingredients on low heat. Whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer to a sealable container and keep refrigerated.


Makes 1 drink

1.5 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. dry vermouth
0.75 oz. grenadine
0.5 oz. lemon juice
3-4 dashes of orange bitters
Lemon twist

Place all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and than pour out into cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist and drink immediately.

5 Comments Write a comment

  1. Ooo that cocktail looks great! If you like tequila, you should check out the Chapala cocktail. It’s another delicious way to use grenadine. :)

  2. I thought I was the only person who never cooked anything from the Ottolenghi cookbook. I’m comforted. I’m a teetotaler, but I might skip the vodka and try the grenadine recipe anyway. It sounds so appealing. I need something to drink during Cheese in the Trap episodes.

  3. Molly, I’ve never heard of the Chapala! I’ll have to try that one! Thanks!

    Elle, I think it still keeps for 3-4 weeks in the fridge without the added vodka. Sometimes, if I want to feel fancy, I’ll mix a little grenadine with my la croix and drink it out of a wine glass. :)

  4. You can add preserved lemons to salads, soups, stews, even to a simple avocado or tuna sandwich. I like to chop them finely and add them to legume soups because they add a sweet lemony flavor. The other day I added them to a potato salad and they added nice little acidic bites. Basically any dish that needs acid for balance. Try :)

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