Nimbu Achar. This simple north indian style lemon pickle is made with lemons, spices and salt. It is made without oil and needs sun fermentation for preserving. Also known as nimbu ka achar, you need very few (5-6) ingredients to make this recipe. It is a vegan recipe which is unique because it is very low in calories (oil free) as compared to most indian achar.
Indian pickles have a burst of flavor and taste. There are many varieties of achar made in every region of India. There are instant , cooked, fermented achar. The spice selection and methods vary from cook to cook as well as from home to home. What remains constant is that no matter which region, they are super delicious. Tangy, spicy, salty, sweet - they add a punch to any meal. In my home, achar was always served with dal chawal. Sometimes mom would spread the achaar inside a paratha and pack for lunch. So delicious!
Whenever someone comes from Delhi or whenever I go, we lug back a few bottles of this nimbu ka achar. It is my most favorite with khichdi. Once you make it, this achar can be preserved for many years and is sure to add a punch to your meals.
My Nimbu Achar Recipe
- Needs Very Few Ingredients. Lemons, spices and salt. That all you need.
- It is salty and tangy. You can increase the amount of sugar if you want khatta meetha (sweet & sour) nimbu ka achar.
- Low Calorie - This nimbu achar is oil free. The lemons are preserved in salt and acid (lemon juicie. One small serving is 20-30 calories.
- This recipe will yield a raseela (juicy) achar.
- Needs Sun Fermentation. This is not an instant lemon pickle recipe.
Benefits of Nimbu Achar
- This nimbu achaar is extremely good for digestion. This recipe uses spices like ajwain, hing (asafetida) and kala namak (black indian salt). All these spices are regarded very good for gut health when consumed in moderation.
- Lemon is a power house of nutrients and is rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium that are considered good for health. It has water soluble fiber which promotes digestive health.
- Sun Fermentated pickles are full of anti oxidants and probiotics that boost gut health.
Please note that I am not a doctor, I am writing down what I heard from my grandmother and mom about the pickles. Please consult an expert for medical explanation of achar benefits.
Sun Fermented Indian Pickles
Indian summers present a perfect oppurtunity for sun-aided pickling. Sun fermented achar are the most common kind in the subcontinent. These achaar have a sharp sour taste and the texture of vegetables is nicely crisp as compared to ones that are either instant or cooked on stove.
Compared to traditional pickles from the western world that have an accurate ratio of brine, sun pickling (or rather we should call it sun fermenting) is a bit dependent on impulse, smell and feel. I often saw my grandmother would add extra oil or salt or lemon juice a few days after the fermentation process has begun. Anytime, she noticed something, she knew how to fix it for best results.
The tricky part is having sun, not just sun, strong sun aka hot dry weather. That's why making pickles was such a busy business for her during summer months.
When you make it, you will notice that as this lemon achar ferments under the sun, firstly the skin of the lemons will give off their bright color followed by the spices noticeably swelling up as they absorb the lemon juice. Eventually after a week or so, the bitter taste of lemon skin will go away and they will turn soft and really really tangy and salty. This irrestible "no oil" lime pickle is a tease to the tastebuds. Really addictive!
- Lemons or Limes- Choose limes or lemons. A few things to keep in mind that will help you in your election. 1) Firstly the citrus should be juicy. To check it press and select when your purchase at the store. 2) Secondly, choose ones that have thin skins (usually small limes and lemons fall in that category). During spring - summer I have seen baby lemons and limes at stores, I go for those. 3) Lastly just sniff the fruit- it should smell strong and nice.
- Spices - Ajwain, Balck Peppercorn (dont use ready to use ground black pepper), Red Chilli Flakes (or red chili powder),hing(asafetida).
- Salt & Sugar - I use two kind of salt - kala namak (indian black salt) and regular table salt. Kala namak adds a wonderful tangy taste. If you dont have, skip. Raw or granulated sugar, use either.
How To Make Nimbu Ka Achar
Here are the few easy steps to make lemon pickle at home. Use clean knife and dishes/spoons when you make this achar. Also use non reactive dishes and jars made of glass or stainless steel. I used glass dishes.
- Wash the lemons thoroughly. Lay them on a towel and air dry completely.
- With clean hands, using a clean sharp knife, cut the lemons into small pieces. You may quarter them if they are small else cut into bite sizes pieces.
- Place the lemons in a glass bowl and sprinkle salt. Mix thoroughly to coat. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap, poke few holes and set in the sun for 1-2 days. This is to draw out moisture from lemons. You will see after 2 days that their skin is brownish and the edges will be dried out.
- After 2 days, grind the ajwain and black peppercorn into a powder (not too fine nor too coarse). Add on top of lemons. Also add rest of the spices. Using clean hands mix very well.
- Pack the lemons into a sterilized jar (see below on how to sterlize). Pour the lemon juice to cover the lemons. Dont over stuff, pack loosely. If needed you can use two jars. We want air circulation in the jar during the fermentation process.
- Close the top of the jar with a muslin cloth. Or you can use lids but dont tighten them too much.
- Place in sun. In 12 -15 days your pickle will be fermented. Time depends on where you live and how hot it is. Ideal season to make this pickle is during peak summer. In Las Vegas severe heat, it takes about 10 days. Shake the jars 1-2 times a day.
- At the end of fermentation, the skins will be soft and the achar will be tangy. Its ready to consume.
How to Sterilize Pickling Jars
Use glass Jars to store pickles. Bring a large pot of water to boil. The pot should be large enough to hold the jars and there should be enough water that the jars remain completely submerged.
Once the water is boiling, using tongs lower the glass jars and their metal lids into the boiling water. Continue to boil the water for 10 minutes.
Remove using tongs and place the jars inverted on a drying rack (or use clean cookie rack). Let completely dry before using.
Tips For Best Lemon Achar
- Storage - There is no need to refrigerate once the pickle is ready. Sun-cooked pickles keep well at room temperature. Store inside your kitchen cabinet.
- Serving - Always use a clean spoon to serve the pickles. If you are careful, they will last for months or years together.
- Always use clean hands or dishes or spoons while making or serving the achar. This will make sure that there is no fungal formation.
- Make sure that the dishes, pickling jars and your hands are dry. Wipe them to make sure because even a few drops of water will make achar go bad.
- Shake the pickles once or twice a day to avoid fungal formation.
- Dont leave a lot of empty space at the top of jar when you are stuffing the pickle. Choose the jar according to the quantity of lemons you have. I used a 16oz jar.
Nimbu Achar- No oil Indian Oil Pickle Recipe
- 10 lemon medium sized
- 1.5 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ajwain carrom seeds
- 1 tablespoon black pepeprcorn
- 2 teaspoon red chilli flakes adjust taste
- ½ teaspoon hing asafetida
- 1.5 teaspoon kala namak rock salt
- ½ cup lemon juice fresh squeezed
- 2 tablespoon sugar use ⅓ to ½ cup if you want sweetish pickle
- Place lemons in a colander and wash thoroughly under running water. Let drain in the colander over the kitchen sink for at least 15-20 minutes. Spread the limes on clean kitchen towels and let air dry. . Make sure that the limes are fully dry before you start cutting them.
- Next, with clean hands, quarter or half the lemons (depends on the size you like) and remove as much seeds you can. Once cut, transfer on to a large glass dish, spread them in an even layer. Sprinkle salt and with clean, dry hands or spoon, mix to coat the lemons. Cover the glass dish with a cling wrap, poke few holes in the it & let sit in the full sun for 1-2 days. You will see that the lime wedges will have brown skin and they start to dry (slightly) & there is liquid at the bottom.
- On the third day, grind the ajwain and black peppercorn. You can use coffee grinder or mortar pestle. Dont grind too fine or too coarse.
- Sprinkle over the lemons along with hing, chilli flakes and kala namak. With clean hand or spoon, thoroughly mix everything together very well.
- Pack the lemons into a sterilized jar (see post on how to sterilize). Dont stuff the lemons tightly, pack loosely. At the same time don't leave space at the top of the jar, this aids in bacterial formation which we dont want. If needed you can use two jars. We want air circulation in the jar during the fermentation process. Pour the lemon juice to cover the lemons.
- Place in a sunny spot for next 12-15 days to ferment. Time will depend on how hot and dry it is where you live. Shakes 1-2 times a day. You will see that as the days progress the skin of the limes starts softening & turning brown along with liquid at the bottom getting thicker than on the very first day.
- Pickle will be ready in about two weeks. It gets better with time.
- There is no need to refrigerate once the pickle is ready. Sun-cooked pickles keep well at room temperature. Store inside your kitchen cabinet. Always use a clean spoon to serve the pickles, they keep for months or years together.