Vadukapuli Naranga Urugai or Giant Bitter Lemon Pickle is one of my personal favourite Indian pickles. It’s not that popular with the others here because this particular lemon is on the bitter side.
I’m not quite sure what the English name is for the Vadukapuli Naranga is, or if there is one. Searches on the net have thrown up Giant Bitter Lemon, Wild Lemon and Ponderosa Lemon. This particular variety of lemon is about the size of a large grapefruit. It has a rough, slightly bumpy thick skin and is not so juicy and quite bitter. In Kerala it is locally known as Kari Naranga which translates as “lemon for pickling”.
These lemons are typically in season around Onam. So the Vadukapuli Naranga Urugai or Giant Bitter Lemon Pickle naturally features during the Onam Sadhya or festive lunch. It is also often served at Malayali wedding lunches during season. Onam is celebrated in late August/ early September, but this year I found this lemon at the store in December and January! That’s global warming for us, possibly.
There are many ways of making this pickle in Kerala. One involves chopping the lemon into pieces. Then salt, red chilli powder, and chopped green chillies are added to the lemon. Finally, a little boiled and cooled water is mixed in to create some gravy. Another method has the lemon steam cooked whole for about 10 minutes. After the lemon has cooled, it is chopped and pickled as mentioned above. Traditionally, both methods use no oil, so the pickles have a very short shelf life.
My Vadukapuli Naranga Urugai or Giant Bitter Lemon Pickle is slightly different. It includes oil so the pickle keeps a little longer. I made it using my more traditional style of pickling.