I still have some left in the jar from my last trip to India.Every time I scoop out a spoon ful to serve on to my platter, unconsciously, I drop a few wedges back. Then I smile at the silly thought which crosses my mind. I just don’t want that jar to be empty ever! Is that even possible?Maybe not.Its not just mom’s nimbu ka achaar, its her love,which I want to relish in all my meals.
Store-bought pickles fail to satisfy me. Too much oil, overload of spices, a preservative cloned after taste – if I may complain. At times, I am desperate to make my own.Not much luck with that;I have not been able to find the lemons, raw mangoes or chillies which come close to the ones we get back home.
After almost three years of living here, my happiness knew no bounds when I spotted these baby limes at a south asian store.Can you imagine my stroll as I rushed towards them? Top that with an unbeatable price of a dollar for two pounds. Can you? They were perfect – thin-skinned, spongy to press, acidic, and greenish-yellow.I knew I will be spending few hours with mom on phone to get her recipe & tips.Pickle will be made!
Indian summers present a perfect oppurtunity to sun-aided pickling.Pickles or achaar are an integral part of indian cuisine. A small amount is always served to square home style meals. Some like it for the tang they add & some like them for digestion. Seasonal fruits & vegetables are commonly used along with spices (fenugreek, mustard, nigella, chillies etc) & buckets of oil to make pickle batches which last through the whole year.
Sun cooked pickles are the ones are where the gold lies, I m too fond of them.Unless you put in hours of labour & showcase patience while the pickle cooks in the warmth of the sun, the business is far from over. I have seen everyone in the family slog over them.Not to forget the high levels of hygiene required all through – clean spoons & hands, sterile jars and what not.
This irrestible “no oil” lime pickle is able to perfectly live up to the expectations – tart, succulent flesh & chewy lime skin – what a tease on the tastebuds. The lime wedges pickle in their own juice and a handful of spices. The spices are few but quite typical to
Preparing the limes
Put all the limes 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 over clean kitchen towels and rub to completely dry them. You can put them in sun too for this purpose. Ensure that the limes are completely dry before you start cutting them.
Next, with clean hands, quarter or half the limes (depends on the size you like) and remove as much seeds you can.Once cut, transfer the wedges on to a large glass dish, spread them in an even layer. Sprinkle black salt over the limes and with clean, dry hands, rub the salt with the limes. Cover the glass dish with a plastic wrap, poke few holes in the it & let sit in the full sun for 3 days. You will see that the lime wedges will start to dry (slightly) & there is liquid at the bottom.
Making the Pickle
On the fourth day, coarsely grind the kali mirch in your coffee grinder. Put the ajwain next & pulse a few times. Take out the mixture in bowl & mix hing powder, red chilli flakes and sea salt (along with sugar, if using) with it. Sprinkle this mix over the lime wedges along with lime juice. With clean hand, thoroughly mix everything together. Again, cover the glass dish with a fresh plastic wrap, poke few holes in it and let sit in full sun for 15 days. You will need to stir the mix once a day using a clean,dry wooden spoon. 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.
At the end of 15 days, check the salt of the pickle again & adjust (if required) , mix up the pickle well with clean, dry wooden spoons and transfer to canning jars. Dont full till the top of the jar but at the same time don’t leave a lot of room for bacteria in air to get moldy. Leaving 1/2 inch space from the top is okay. If you are using jars with metal lid, you will need to cover the mouth of jar with plastic wrap to avoid the contact between pickle & metal.Let the jars sit in sun till the limes are totally soft, brownish in color & the liquid is more like a syrup. You will need to shake the jars periodically. In Las Vegas sun, it took about 3 weeks to get that stage.
There is no need to refrigerate.Sun-cooked pickles normally last at room conditions. Always use a clean spoon to serve the pickles, they keep for months or years together.
Serve the pickle as a side to your meals, grind and add to marinade of meats.I like to spread the pickle on top of my crackers as well as on flatbread crisps.