A Sour Introduction Indian Lime Pickle
Pickles to me are like salt to food. If the rice happens to be saltless, or the aloo tikkis bland, and no sabzi to wrap my chapatis with, there’s the quintessential pickle that comes to my aid. The pickles that have all my heart are kachhi keiri and nimbu ka achaar.
And when the source of the nimbu achaar recipe is from a generation apart, its value doubles. This is a tried-and-tested recipe of my sister’s mother-in-law, Helen Ferraz, whose kitchen experiments have been a sure-fire hit. Helen is based in Malad, Mumbai with no blog to document her recipes which I thought worthy of replicating on mine.
In the old times, pickles were made in large quantities, to stay on for a year. Some prepared pickles to tide them through rainy and wintry times when provisions weren’t easily accessible or available. Others couldn’t do without the tangy addition of nimbu achar in their meals, to eat with rotis or steamed rice. It is economical to the lower income classes too, as a little nimbu achar can dispense the need for meats or veggies and premium side dishes. To me, neither of the above reasons apply, except that I simply find pickles – nimbu achar as well as kachhi keiri achar – divine. I can gorge on them with or without accompanying mains, with or without reason, licking my fingers as I dip them time and again into the pickle. My favourite combination for pickled limes is rice, dal makhani, a whole white onion, a roughly chopped tomato, a slit green chilli and a pinch of salt at the side.
As far as I can reminisce from my school days, there was always a green mango, red chilli powder and salt wrapped in a paper in my steel “dabba”. Not to forget the classic “half blade” used to chop the mango into shares for my classmates and me. We’d go crunching into the mango slices ignoring the squint that appeared in the eye when sour grates enamel.
As I am not sweet-toothed, chunda wouldn’t fascinate me owing to its sugar content and so this article will talk about just sour lemons and how to make a lemonade, oops a lemon achar recipe out of it. So, here’s my Nimbu ka Achar recipe – one that will last you the year round.
Nimbu ka Achar Recipe (or Lime Pickle Recipe)
Ingredients for Nimbu ka Achar Recipe
- 100 limes (or lemons) (chopped into halves or quartered wedges, use thin-skinned lemons/limes. Halve the amount if preparing for a small family. This goes for the other ingredients too)
- 110 gms salt
- 30 gms saffron (or turmeric powder)
- 15 gms fenugreek seeds
- 15 gms cumin seeds
- 70 gms sugar
- 500 ml oil (peanut/sunflower/canola/rice bran)
- 220 gms ginger (washed/cleaned)
- 220 gms garlic (peeled, or use the ready peeled variety)
- 60 gms Kashmiri chilli (or chilli powder)
- 2-3 cups vinegar (Goan/Apple cider/Filipino Datu-Putu)
Preparation of Nimbu ka Achar Recipe
- Wash and dry the limes (or lemons). Chop them into wedges, and deseed them as far as possible.
- Apply salt to the chopped limes and sundry them for a couple of days.
- Roast the fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds. Cool them before grinding (next step).
- Grind the two types of roasted seeds together with red chillies (or chilli powder), turmeric/saffron, ginger and garlic in vinegar only.
- Next, heat some oil in a deep non-stick pot.
- Fry the ground masala paste on low-medium heat for 5-8 minutes.
- Add the sugar and 1 cup vinegar. More sugar may be added if the limes are too sour. Fry for a further 5 minutes.
- Then add the sun-dried lemon wedges, draining off excess water. Add salt (if required).
- Cook for another 20 minutes or longer if the limes are thick-skinned on medium heat. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Cool and empty into sterilised glass jars.
Some would say that pickles aren’t good for health but it isn’t as if we consume it daily or in large portions. If eaten proportionately, its high sodium content wouldn’t affect you. In fact, the salt in the pickle could actively support the formation of good bacteria. As with all edible foods, however, balanced eating is a key factor.
The above lemon achar recipe is a tried and tested one, which has come down from the able hands of Helen Ferraz. That she has a natural flair for cooking and pickle making is common knowledge, to her family and mine. I am indebted to her for this pickled lime recipe which made it easier on me to not work out one of my own through trial and error.
Write back a feedback about this nimbu achaar recipe if you chance trying it. If you’ve licked your fingers, well you owe me one. And Helen too.