February 5, 2010

Elumichampazham Urugai (Lime Pickle – South Indian Style): Three Ways!

The real season for making pickles in India is the summer, which runs from sometime in March through July depending on which part of the country one lives in. This is because a lot of “pickleable” (is there such a word, I wonder?) stuff, most especially mangoes, are aplenty in the summer.
One "pickleable" fruit taht I have seen available all the year round in India (at least wherever I have lived so far) is the lime. Or would you call it a lemon?

Before we go further with this post, I would like to know what you would this thing we call elumichampazham (in Tamil), cherunaarangya (in Malayalam) and nimboo (in Hindi)? I’m not sure whether this is a lime or a lemon in English though I’ve decided to go with lime for now.
Apparently a lime is smaller, green in colour, round or oval in shape with a thin skin and a bit sweet! They also grow all the year round. The lemon is supposed to be larger with a thicker skin, yellow and sourer.

Now the “elumichangai” which I get here is small, yellow (sometimes with a tinge of green), could have thick or thin skin and quite tart! I’ve never met a sweet one before. So am I pickling lemons or limes?

Getting back to the pickle, as I was saying this is one fruit which available all the year round but they are quite inexpensive in winter. In summer they are exorbitantly priced but very much in demand to make lime juice (not lemon in this context) in a variety of flavours.

So the best time for making lime pickles in India, is during the winter when the fruit also looks much better size and quality-wise.

There are many different ways of pickling limes depending on which part of India one lives in, and this particular style of pickling them is very south Indian. There again, both my mother and mother-in-law had their own methods of making these pickles, even though the ingredients were the same. I have also seen a third way of preparing this same pickle.

The difference in all the 3 recipes given below, is in the initial part of preparing the limes before actually making the pickle. This process softens the slightly thick skin of the limes and makes the pickle ready for consumption within a couple of days.

The first method is great if you have a lot of limes to pickle. Even though the initial sunning of the limes takes about a week, the pickle made with the brined limes is ready to use. And the taste of the sun in your pickle is just something else! This pickle also keeps better.
The second and third methods also produce very good lime pickle, but the pickle would ready to use only after a couple of days after making it. Since the third pickle involves boiling the limes in water, it has a shorter shelf life when compared with the other two.
Please keep the pickle refrigerated.


10 large limes

6 to 8 tsp red chili powder (adjust a bit to suit your taste)

3 tsp salt (adjust as required)

¼ cup sesame seed oil

1 ½ to 2 tsp mustard seeds

1 or 2 sprigs curry leaves

1/3 tsp asafetida powder

¾ tsp fenugreek powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder (only if using the 3rd method)

Method 1 (My mother’s method):

In this method, my mother used to pickle a whole lot of limes in salt when they were inexpensive and easily available. She would then leave them to cook/ soften in the heat of the summer sun. Of course, if you live in a place where it is pretty hot like here, you don’t have to wait till summer to do this. Please don’t make this pickle using this method unless you are sure of about 4 or 5 very hot sunny days at a stretch!

This is how lime pickles are made my mother’s way.
First, wash the limes and dry them well with a towel. Then either cut the limes into quarters, or if you prefer smaller pieces, cut each lime into eights.
Put some of the pieces into a large sterilized and dry glass pickle jar. Now sprinkle some of the salt over it. Put some more lime pieces in to the jar, then some more salt and continue till all the lemon pieces and the salt have been used up.

Close the jar, making sure the lid is airtight and shake the bottle to agitate the lemon pieces and the salt. Place this glass jar in the sun. Shake the jar a couple of times during the day to ensure that all the pieces and the salt get redistributed in the bottle. Repeat this every day for about 5 days.

At the end of 5 days, the lemon pieces would have oozed out juice, dissolving the salt and also changed colour to become very soft. This brined lemon pickle will keep for over a year, provided you do not open the jar.

Method 2 (My mother-in-law’s method):

Wash and towel-dry the limes well.
Heat about 3 tbsps of the sesame seed oil in a wok. Add the limes (whole, without cutting them) to the wok and stir fry them over medium heat for about 5 to 10 minutes. This helps to soften the outer skin. Using a slotted spatula, drain the limes and remove them from the wok onto a plate and let them cool.

Now cut the limes into quarters or eights, depending on size. The limes might be a little slippery because of the oil coating, so be careful. Using a sharp, serrated knife helps.
Save the juice that collects while cutting the limes.

Method 3:

Wash the limes. Put enough water to immerse the limes completely in a pan and bring it to boil. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and the limes to the boiling water. Turn down the heat to medium and let the limes boil for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat, cover it and let the limes cool to room temperature. Cut each into quarters or eights.
Save the juice that collects while cutting the limes.

And then.........

From here on, whichever method you used to prepare your limes, the method for preparing the pickle remains the same.

Heat the sesame seed oil in a wok. Add the mustard seeds, and once they splutter, add the curry leaves and asafetida powder. Stir a couple of times, making sure the asafetida powder doesn’t burn. Turn down the heat and add the chilli powder and then the limes with all the juice (from one of the methods outlined above).

Stir carefully to mix everything together for a couple of minutes and then add the fenugreek powder. Mix well, again, and turn off the heat.
Let the pickle cool to room temperature. Bottle in a dry sterilized jar and refrigerate. This pickle contains enough oil to keep at room temperature, but it is always safer to refrigerate it.

This recipe make a big jar of pickle.


Asha said...

Just looking at it makes my mouth water, good ones. Check out my Pickle dal, you can use these as well.

Jayashree said...

I prefer mango pickle to lemon(lime???) pickle, but am planning to try my hand at this this year. So, which method would you recommend?

Happy Cook said...

I tto prefer mango to lime if i have the choice, said that this pickle is looking so so delicous, i think my keyboard I have to take a towle to wipe the drool away.

Nina said...

ummmm...amazing.I have never tried my hands on making pickles.Just cant do it..no reasons though.You made it sound so simple Aparna...its wonderful.I looooooved it:)

Rachana Kothari said...

mmm mouthwatering pickle... and my favourite:)

Cham said...

Is there any southie eats without pickle! The pic makes me drool!

Trendsetters said...

I thought pickling is an age old process...thanks for making it look easy and inspiring us bloggers..we have an unc who can just thrive on pickles...:-)

simply.food said...

Yummy recipe simply delicious.

arundati said...

i had to stop from drooling over the keypad... while my all time fave pickle is avakkai ( i cant be from andhra if i chose otherwise!!) i do like hot lime (lemon) pickle with thair sadam....

sra said...

I love lime pickle - I use dosa as an accompaniment (yes, that's right ;)) but haven't had it in a few months. I've made my own once myself, with gran's bounty!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I love lime pickle! (And mango pickle)
I always buy Pataks but it is $6 for a little jar and I would love to try making my own. I do make my own preserved lemons (Moroccan style) the technique looks very similar.
Thanks so much!

Ramya Vijaykumar said...

Oh my three ways all at one place, wonderful looking pickles so you are all ready for the pickle season and getting us prepped too!!!

kavita Naik/Parxencar said...

WOW Aparna, I really like your blog,Have you tasted the Walnut cake in INfanteria Bakery in Calangute, do try it, it's awesome! I have become your fan,and will surely like to see u when I come home (Goa).

jayasree said...

I follow ur MIL's method. Liked your mom's method too.

Droolworthy pic..

tigerfish said...

Looks like I really need to learn more about Indian cooking.

Ria Mathew said...

Perfect with Kanji! YUMMMM!!!

Spice said...

Nice pickles....can't eat food without having one on my plate...

jayasri said...

I do make pickles, and favourite is lime/lemon pickles, I love to eat them with chapatis, upma, etc., etc., As my daughter says do not open the pickle bottle, mum it calls please come and have me, but,it's too spicy for her!!, you got my point, the smell makes you mouthwatering, as I am doing now seeing your lovely click, I do ur third method and somewhere btwn ur mom's method, someday I will post it soon!!

Ranjani said...

pickle 3 ways is quite somtehing:) looks great, though I doubt I will ever make it from scratch since I'm v v lazy!

Sunshinemom said...

I remember what joy it used to be to have a spoonful of 'thayir chaadam' with a lick of delectable lime pickle - Pure bliss!

You have given all possible ways of making this one and each one seems as delicious. I am not very experimental when it comes to making pickles. I usually settle for a simple 'uppalittadu'.

Preeti Kashyap said...

perfect for thair sadam...i think my mom makes like the second method..its heaven!

Rajani@eatwritethink said...

aparna thanks for this recipe! i love lemon pickle, particularly with thayir saadam or with sambhar rice. my mum follows your mum's method. i am yet to make this pickle i just take back a bottle my mum would have saved for me :) my grandfather used to make them whole like your mil.

Shabs.. said...

This looks so good Aparna. I can feel myself a river in my mouth...

I love ur blog header....That's so good!!!
I was wondering....I always loved extra pics in the posts.....Ur photos are too good....I think u shud put atleast an extra pic in ur post....I am sure all readers will enjoy it too...


Aparna said...

Saw your pickle dal, Asha. Sounds lovely.

I like all three Jayashree, but my favourite is my Mom's method because I love the taste of the sun in my pickles. :)

There are Cham, but they're a minority!!! :)

Love avakkai too, Arundati. :) Remember my first encounter with it, blew the lid off my mouth!!!

Sounds like me and molagaipodi, Sra. I use dosas as an accompaniment for that! LOL

Natashya, you should try making your own. The "Priya" brand of pickles is quite good too, if you get it there.

Sure, Kavita. Would be nice to meet you. Will check out Infantaria next time we go that side.

I know, Harini. Thayir chaadham and lime pickle is one of those wonderful combinations!

Rajani, maybe its a Palakkad thing? LOL

Thank you Shabs. Most times I just about manage to take just one picture per post. :)

shayma said...

it's really nice how you posted all the different methods- esp your mum and mum-in-law's. i love nimboo ka achar. another lovely post, aparna.

Anonymous said...

This is pallavi. I think the 1st method of leaving the lime to soften in the heat of the sun is best as my naani also used to do the same. You have mentioned that the pieces of lime have to be mixed with the oil and spices in the kadhai/container. Is it possible to add the oil and spice mixture after it has cooled down into the jar containing the lime pieces? Is this going to spoil the pickle?

Aparna said...

Hi Pallavi,

I assume you're still talking about method number 1. You can add the oil and spices to the bottle and it won't make a difference, except it could get messy and be more difficult to mix everything up well.