The real season for making pickles in India is the summer. In India this 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 such fruit that is available all the year round in India (at least wherever I have lived so far) is the lime.
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)? After much research and debate I have concluded that the common greenish or yellow variety in India is a lime. 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!
Getting back to the pickle, limes are 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. So the best time for making lime pickles in India, is during the winter when the fruit is also of better quality.
There are many different ways of pickling limes depending on which part of India one lives in. 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.
All 3 recipes given below use the same set of ingredients and differ only in the initial part of the pickling procedure. This part of the 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. These pickles 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.