The last month in Hyderabad was very hot, with temperatures almost touching 45°C in the daytime. Though these temperatures made me uneasy and frustrated, my Nani(grandmother) made good use of those days by preparing something I had missed a lot. She made a little quantity of Dhoop Nimbu upon my request and here I am sharing her recipe with you all. She recalled that her husband, my late Nana(grandfather) was an ardent fancier of this acidic sun preserved wonder. He used to prepare it regularly and relished it always along with some Mash ki Dal and Warqi Roti at breakfasts when he was alive. The process of preparation is simple, but requires some special conditions. Strong sunshine for almost a week, thoroughly clean and dry utensils are essential for the process.
Dhoop Nimbu ~ Sun Preserved Lemons
Mota Namak/Coarse Salt – 4 tbsp
Lemons – 6
Choose 6 blemish free ripe and yellow thin skinned lemons and wash them thoroughly. Wipe them completely dry with a clean cloth. Using the tip of a sharp knife, poke 4 of the 6 lemons making superficial slits on all over them and keep aside in a dry bowl. Juice the remaining two lemons and keep aside in a bowl. Now add 1 tablespoon of mota namak in a clean and dry glass jar with a tight lid. Add a gashed lemon to the jar and add an another tablespoon of mota namak to it. Likewise keep adding the mota namak and the gashed lemons until both the ingredients are used up. Lastly pour in the reserved juice of the two lemons. Close the lid of the jar and shake the bottle thoroughly. Place this jar in an area that receives almost 6 hours of strong sunshine. Keep rotating the bottle hourly or after every 3 hours everyday when you keep it in the sun. Bring the jar indoors when it is dark and place it back in the sun the next day. Keep repeating it for until 5-6 days. By then you will notice that the lemons will start changing color into light brown and will begin to get softer. Also they will release juices and shrink in size. At the end of the 5th or 6th day, transfer the jar of sun preserved lemons in the refrigerator to store and use when required. The prepared Dhoop Nimbu is ready for consumption.
To use: Using a dry slotted spoon, take a preserved lemon from the jar. Cut it into required number of pieces and serve them on the side along with meals. These preserved lemons are very acidic and quite delicious. The juices that are released along with the mota namak is not suitable are consumptions as it is very briny in taste. However when all the sun preserved lemons have been used up, the remaining briny juices can be used up to make a new batch of dhoop nimbu.
You can also cut all sun preserved lemons and make a pickle out of them following the same process for lemon pickle given here.
Dhoop Nimbu Pictorial
Characters in Play: (Indian) Thin-Skinned Lemons and Mota Namak
Day 1 in Sun
Day 2 in Sun
Day 3 in Sun
Day 4 in Sun
Day 5 in Sun