Pickles are Indian specialities, enjoyed at breakfasts, at meals, or as an accompaniment to a snack . Each household has their own twist on the pickles that they prepare yearly using freshly available seasonal fruits and vegetables. Among those pickles, mango pickle and lemon or green lime pickle are the two classic indian pickles prepared most commonly in every household, and also easily available at the stores in various varieties.
In todays express lifestyle, the art of making pickles at home is slowly sinking into the mists of time. It only takes a little time, effort and love to prepare these indulgences at home, with your own control on the amount of spices as well as the quality of the product. The following is my mothers recipe for Lemon or Lime pickle.
Note: Pickling is a bacteriostatic method of food preservation, in which the micro-organisms are unable to grow in food. Salt is the main ingredient used as the preservative. Throughout the preperation, take precautions and use only dry spoons for mixing and transfering purpose. Make sure the utensils you are using for making the pickle are absolutely moisture free. Otherwise the pickle will spoil and there are chances of fungus/mould formation. Pickles should never be sored in glazed jars.
Enjoy about a teaspoon of this pickle along with your meals, as an accompaniment to your breakfast or a snack.
Nimbu ka Achaar - Lemon/Lime Pickle
Makes: about 2.5 lb
The procedure includes the following steps which are later described in detail below:
1. Wash and wipe lemons or limes. Chop the 10 lemons or limes, add juice of 2 lemons or limes, mix salt and turmeric and keep aside for 3 days covered in a glass jar with tight lid at room temperature. Shake the bottle gently twice everday so that all the pieces are soaked in the juices.
2. After 3 days, add the powdered pickle spices and the tempering/baghaar to the pickle. Mix well. Transfer to air tight pickle jars and store in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 weeks for the lemon or lime pieces to ferment. The pickle is ready to be used once the skin of the lemons or limes is soft.
Lemon or Lime – 10, blemish free, ripe and juicy
Juice of fresh lemons or limes
Iodine free Salt – 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1/3 tsp
Cut lemons mixed with turmeric powder, lemon juice and salt in a large glass dish
Choose blemish free, good quality, preferably organic lemons or limes. I am never able to find thin-skinned lemons where I live, so I prepare pickle using thick skinned lemons or green limes, and have kind of got used to them. Infact the thick pickled lemon skin tastes delicious! Wash them and pat them completely dry using a dry cloth. You can also spread them out on a tray and place it under the sun to complately air dry for 1 or 2 hours. If the skin of the lemons you are using is thick (like mine, see the pictures), discard the thick top stalk part and bottom of the lemons and chop up 10 lemons into small quarters and put into a sterilized glass jar with a tight non-metallic lid. This need not be done for limes as they have a thinner skin. Cutting off the top and bottom is also not required if the skin of the lemons you are using is thin. The skin of Indian lemons is usually thin, whereas the lemons that are available elsewhere are quite thick. Discard the seeds. Add salt, turmeric powder and lemon/lime juice to the jar so that all the pieces are covered in the juice and mix well. Keep the jar in a dark place at room temperature for 3 days. Gently shake the jar twice every day.
Red chilli powder – 2 tbsp
Dry Roasted Cumin seed powder – 2 tbsp
Dry Roasted Coriander seed powder -1 tbsp
Dry Roasted Black Mustard seed powder – 1 tsp
Dried Chickpeas/Kabuli Chana - washed and pat dried completely (optional)
Garlic pods – 3
Small green chillies – 4, washed, and completely pat dried, roughly chopped
After 3 days, the lemon/lime pieces will have released a lot of juices. Add and mix all the above ingredients into the chopped lemon/lime quarters with its juices in the glass jar using a dry spoon and keep aside. Now prepare the baghaar or the tempering. (the dried chickpeas and garlic pods turn soft, suitable for eating, upon fermentation and acquire a tangy taste in the pickle).
Freshly prepared Lemon pickle ready to be set aside in the refrigerator to mature
Baghaar or the Tempering:
Canola oil – 1/2 cup
Nigella seeds/Kalonji – 1 tsp
Black mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Dried red chilli – 2
In a pan, heat oil at medium high heat and as soon as it warms up add the remaining ingredients and mix well. In a few seconds they start to splutter. Remove from heat and keep aside. Take care not to burn the spices. Let it cool down and come to room temperature. This is the baghaar or tempering. Once the baghaar is cooled, carefully pour it into the lemon/lime pickle jar.
Lemon pickle ready to be eaten with its skin all nicely softened after 2 months
Store this freshly prepared lemon/lime pickle in the refrigerator to slowly ferment for about a week or two. Fermentation process renders fruits soft and and the fruits take on an additional aroma and flavor of spices. Mould growth is prevented by the use of a tight lid, by which air is prevented from coming in contact. Make sure that you use a completely dry spoon to use the pickle when you feel like eating it, and cover it and store in the refrigerator as soon as possible for a long life. Keep rotating and turning the jar frequently in the refrigerator. Check if the skin of the lemon/lime is soft enough. If you have used thick lemons, you might have to wait a little longer. I kept the pickle jar unopened for 3 months in the refrigerator, before I used it.