November 14, 2010

Salted Limes With Ginger And Green Chillies: A Simple Indian Style Pickle

For most of us in India, limes are lemons and lemons are limes. As weird as that statement might seem to some of you, as far as our recipes and the vendors at our markets are concerned, they’re one and the same thing. That must sound odd for people who know they’re two different things entirely but for us, they’re all lemons. They’re sour and they can be juiced or pickled or whatever!

After a lot of thought and research, I have come to the conclusion that our lemons are actually limes, even though our markets keep selling us a mix of green/ yellow and thick/ thin skinned “lemons”. If anyone has any thoughts or conclusive information about whether our lemons are actually lemons or limes, please leave a comment.

In our home, limes are usually juiced to make absolutely refreshing summer drinks or used to add a tang to many of our spicy dishes including rasam, pav bhaji and chaats. Then, of course, they’re pickled. Depending on which part of India you are in, limes are pickled with a variety of spices and can be either salty or sweet. They can be so good that you would be spoiled for choice, as is the case with all Indian style pickles.

This particular pickle must be the simplest way of pickling limes. My father, like the rest of his side of the family, loved spicy food. I still remember my paternal grandmother would keep aside half portions of everything she cooked and would add the spice (read chillies!) to other other half. The “less” spicy half portions were reserved for us children and the odd adult who couldn’t tolerate the “heat”, while the rest of the family indulged in their fondness for spicy food.

Since we could never tolerate the levels of “fire” my father was used to, he would usually supplement what he termed “bland” meals with spicy pickles and this arrangement suited us all. However this salted lime and ginger pickle was one of the few non-spicy pickle favourites of his. So much so, that in our home he was the only one who made this pickle. Of course, one could argue that he picked the easiest pickle to make and left all the rest of the cooking to our mother!

There really isn’t much of a recipe to make this pickle proportion-wise. I am giving an approximate recipe but you may use it more a set of instructions for reference and adjust the salt and the green chillies to your taste. A slight increase or decrease of the ingredients will not make much of a difference.

It is important to let the ingredients sort of marinate and the lemon pieces become soft and pulpy in texture. Then have this pickle with cooked rice and freshly made plain yogurt for an absolutely delicious fuss-free and simple comforting meal.

I might be biased in this observation because I am a Palakkad Iyer for whom “thayir chaadham/ curd rice” (which is what we call our yogurt and rice) is the ultimate comfort food, so take my recommendation at your own risk!

Salted Limes Ginger With Green Chillies


6 limes (washed, dried and cut into eights)

Juice of 1 lime

2 pieces of about 2” bits of ginger, chopped into small pieces/ julienne

3 or 4 long green chillies, chopped

2 to 3 tsp salt


Take a clean and dry glass jar. Put a layer or two of the lime pieces into the jar along with half of the ginger and green chillies. Sprinkle about a tsp of salt over this. Put in some more of the lime pieces, the remaining ginger and chillies and some more salt. Put in all the remaining lime pieces and the last of the salt. Lastly, add the juice of 1 lime also to this There is no hard and fast rule about this process. This is just a way of ensuring a more equal distribution of the ingredients.

Your jar should be almost full, but leave a bit of space at the top before closing the jar. This will allow the contents of the jar to move about easily when you need to shake/ agitate it.
Shake the jar a few times to ensure everything gets mixed well. Do this about 3 times a day, and leave the ingredients to work their magic.

The salt will draw the juice out of the lime pieces and also soften the skin. The ginger will initially turn a beautiful pink colour before losing it to become pale after a day or so. After about 3 or 4 days, the pickle will become a bit mushy looking.

Now it is ready for use. Once done, the salt in the pickle should ensure that it keeps at room temperature, but you can always refrigerate to be on the safer side.
This recipe makes enough pickle to fill a medium sized jam jar.

I also wanted to mention, once again, that I’m hosting this month’s edition of the photography event Does My Blog Look Good in This? The deadline for submissions is the 21st November, 2010. You can see the submissions sent in so far at the DMBLGiT gallery.


Veena said...

OOOOhhhhhhhhhh....I do remember this one!!! He would make it all the time and many a time, we'd go for it, before it had marinated to the degree it needed to!! Another one, bookmarked!

Priya said...

Tongue tickling pickle..

Cynthia said...

I have a bottle of this pickle in my fridge right now. Made it from Mandira's recipe. Gosh, it is so good isn't it. I treat it like gold! :) Lovely pics.

Divya Kudua said...

Yum..this is one of my favorites--I don't like the red chilly based one.Its been ages since I tasted this.

Apu said...

Looks delicious!! I can just imagine how well that will go with curd rice!!

Smita Srivastava said...

Looks absolutly delicious. Love the wonderful pic too !!

sangeeta said...

This simple pickle is a must have in my fridge too ... just the cuts are different and that depends on my mood when i am chopping ..:)

indianspicemagic said...

Nice to have it with curd rice.Nice and clear pictures of the ingredients in bottle.

Shipra said...

This reminds me of the 'aadrak-muli' my mom makes. The recipe is d same, but she adds 'muli' to this. Its a must have in winters, with urad dal khichidi. Yummm :)

Priya Sreeram said...

totally agree with u aparna! nothing to beat the thayir sadam- lemon pickle combo ! great recipe

Kris Ngoei said...

It is the opposite here... lemons are not recognized in markets, except in upper class supermarkets.. and they are extremely expensive.. while limes are abundantly available anywhere and anytime of the year. Lime is indeed heart and soul of Thai food...

I am just curious about pickling limes and ginger, must be very tasteful!!

Sawadee from bangkok,

lata raja said...

Lemon,Lime vs Lime,Lemon...neverending confusion.
call-it-what-you-want, pickled and coupled with thayir saadham, they do make a hit combo.
Wondering if you seriously arranged the chillis, ginger pieces and lime cuts in the bottle to bring out a beautiful pattern.

lata raja said...

Alright I read it fully, you have arranged initially:)

Aparna said...

I knew you would recognise it, Veena. :)

Its is Cynthia, at least to me. ;-)

Divya, I like the one with chilli powder too with curd rice but this is the one I prefer.

Thanks, Smita. :)

Adrak-muli is new to me, Shipra. Of course, you get lovely "muli" in the North during winter.

That's interesting, Kris.
Try this pickle and see how you like it.

Actually I did not arrange it like I mentioned in the recipe, Lata. I was in a hurry and just dumped everything in a glass bowl (see my 2nd pic) and filled the jar. It was just my luck that it turned out well in the picture. :)

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Wonderful! I love Indian pickles. Very inspiring post! I wonder if there is a canning book with all South Asian flavours, the books here (Canada/US) are all so timid in the taste department.

Hari Chandana said...

Mouth watering recipe.. looks perfect !!

Ann said...

The tanginess jumps out of the picture. So to add to the confusion, the limes (lemons) you used in thsi recipe are yellow, so I'm thinking they are lemons? Thats my rule of thumb: yellow = lemon. green = lime. =)

Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal said...

wow, the pic is making my mouth water. I have never had anything like this. Surely, I had lime pickle hour and sour version and sweet and sour version as well. But, this is new. Thanks for sharing.

Cham said...

This one sounds very simple and tasty pickle!

sra said...

I would add green pepper to this - I just love it!

Akila said...

looks so yummy dear.....

Anh said...

Pickles. I am always amazed at the diverse ranges of pickes in Indian cuisine!!

KamalKitchen said...

i love this pickle..tho' we didn't add ginger to this..


mala said...

If you want to use the pickle immediately(like what they do for marriages), you have to season mustard seeds, saute greenchillies, ginger and lime piecesin the pressurecooker vessel, close the lid and just cook for 1 whistle.It comes out very well, Aparna.

Aparna said...

You must be finding them timid because you enjoy spice, Natashya.:) Have sent you a mail. Let me see what I can find for you.

Ann, that doesn't work of me. :( I have seen green ones and yellow ones that look like one or the other!

Sra, green pepper would be mind blowing. :)

Anh, we do have a tremendous variety of pickles in India. :)

Mala, I've seen this pickle made that way. :)
I like that too, but this one which takes its time to mature has an entirely different taste.

Miri said...

I used to love this pickle (Im a huge fan of thayir chaadam too!) but now for some reason I find the big pieces intrusive and too much flavour to handle -signs of old age ?

The green chillies look gorgeous and Im sure that my heat seeking hubby would love this too...

crumbsoflove said...

This looks so interesting and tasty, Aparna. What would you suggest to serve it with?
Best, Sandie

Aparna said...

Miri, if you up the chillies I think your husband is guaranteed to like it! :)

Sandie, here we serve it with rice and plain yogurt. This really brings out the flavours of the pickle.