Indian Lime pickle made with previously preserved limes. This lime pickle gets better each day and does not have any water in it so stays longer. Now that is what we look for in pickles - homemade that lasts longer and gets tastier!
I never had to make pickles because I always had someone who I know is an amazing generous pickle maker. Honestly, I loved the pickles my friends made more than what my family made. Our family pickles, as far as I know, are not the ones that stay longer, they are made to be consumed within days and need to be refrigerated. Also, it is predominately dates, lime or mango pickles. We pretty much lived on jars of store-bought pickles.
Post-marriage we had our in-house pickle maker - Umma (mil). I was amazed at her culinary expertise and collection of pickles. I used to eat every meal with one of her pickle bottles next to me 😊. When I came to Yanbu, I brought along with me a BIG bottle of her lime pickle. It does not require refrigeration which was one of the facts I loved it and it even survived the Middle east weather conditions!
Today I am sharing my failproof recipe replicating umma's lime pickle. Like most of the recipes, this one too was made out of the need for a pickle moment! Umma's bottle of pickles lasted for 6 months and while it was getting closer to being over, I asked her to share the recipe. Guess what? She shared a voice message via WhatsApp with a detailed procedure. What better way? 😝
The list of ingredients include for both preserved lime and lime pickle.
- lime or lemons
- sea salt or table salt
- white vinegar
- coconut oil
- mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and asafoetida (hing)
- curry leaves, green chillies, garlic cloves, and fresh ginger
- red chilli powder, Kashmiri red chilli powder or paprika, and turmeric powder
How to make preserved limes?
Making this Indian lime pickle is easy. The whole process involves making preserved limes and holding off making the pickle at least for a month or more. The method shown here requires only two ingredients and a few minutes. Leave the limes to cure a month or longer before using them to make the pickle.
Step 1: Choose the Lime
The best lime to use for this pickle is the Indian yellow small-sized limes. Avoid the green limes as my batch had turned out very bitter and there were too many seeds in it. So, I would not recommend green limes that are with seeds. Please buy the yellow limes and if possible seedless.
Step 2 - Salt the limes
Salt is the key to making unadulterated preserved limes. The salt-filled limes release their juices and they start pickling in their own juices. You will need to use more lime juice or vinegar after a few days to make sure the limes are submerged. Wash and pat dry the limes and make two cuts that result in four wedges that are still attached. Generously fill each crevice with salt and place them inside a clean bottle.
Step 3 - Preserve the salted limes in a Jar
Transfer the salted limes into a clean glass jar that’s just large enough to hold all of the limes. The goal is to have tightly packed salted limes that are covered in juice. Select a jar that truly requires packing and squeezing those limes to fit as this helps to release the juice and start the picking process. Once the limes are packed into the jar, cover them tightly and set them aside in a dark place for a week.
Step 4 - Set a Reminder and wait
Post a week, make sure all limes are tightly packed and submerged in their juice. If they’re not, press them down and add enough freshly squeezed lemon juice or vinegar to cover them. Place the jar in a cupboard, and leave the limes to cure for at least one month or for as long as a year.
Step 5 - Prepare the pickle
Whenever you are ready to make the Indian lime pickle with the preserved limes, make sure you have all the required ingredients before starting.
Heat coconut or sesame oil in a heavy-bottomed pot on a medium-low flame. Toss in mustard seeds until they sizzle, then add fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, and asafoetida. Keep stirring until they release their aroma. Next, add chopped green chillies, garlic, and ginger. Keep sautéing until everything smells amazing and the ginger softens up a bit.
Now, reduce the heat to lowest and add all the ground spices.
Toss in the preserved limes and all the vinegar from the bottle. If it's not enough to make it boil, add more vinegar until it does.
With the help of a wooden spatula, break down few of the limes. At this point, they should be soft and easily cut. Switch off and remove from hob. Let cool compleley before transfering to jars.
Hint: If you have some bread with you, use it to mop the pot as a chef's treat.
There is a fix for bitter lime pickle! Just add more freshly squeezed lime juice, more salt more chilli powder and maybe a bit of sugar. Adjust as you taste and boil one last time before you switch off.
- You will need one or two clean glass jars for preserving limes and for the lime pickle. As the content is acidic, I recommend jars with plastic lids to prevent any rust from forming.
- A heavy-bottomed pot to make the lime pickle.
- A wooden spoon to stir.
This Indian lime pickle recipe stays for months and does not need to be refrigerated. I have been making this for 9 years now and this has been tested in peak Middle East summer days. The only way to ensure it doesn't spoil, is to use dry clean spoon each time.
While I prefer regular limes, you can experiment with other lime varieties. But, I must say the key limes or Persian limes did not favour.
Yes, you can use other cooking oils like sesame oil (gingelly) or vegetable oil if you prefer or have dietary restrictions.
Asafoetida adds a unique flavor, but if you can't find it, you can omit it or use a small amount of onion powder as a substitute.
The spiciness can be adjusted to your taste by varying the amount of red chilli powder and green chillies. The heat differs with the brands and types of chillies so start with a little less than recommeneded amounts and add more if you prefer.
Yes, you can use lime juice as a substitute for white vinegar to adjust the pickle's consistency. But I cannot guarantee the shelf-life of pickles make entirely with lime juice.
Yes, it's essential to dry the limes thoroughly before beginning to prevent any moisture that can lead to spoilage.
If you spot any mold, strange colors, or funky smells in the preserved lime, it's a sign to toss it out. Check the lime jar daily for a week or two until they soften. For the lime pickle, using a clean spoon and proper storage helps prevent spoilage.
Yes, you can easily adjust the quantities to make more or less pickle to suit your needs.
You can pretty much serve this pickle with anything but here are a few of my fav:
Indian Lime Pickle Recipe
For the Lime preserve
- 12 limes washed and completely dried
- 10 to 12 teaspoons salt
- ¼ cup white vinegar
For the pickle
- ⅓ cup coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 2 pinch asafoetida hing
- curry leaves
- 6 green chillies chopped finely
- 15 garlic cloves chopped finely
- 2 inch ginger chopped finely
- 1 ½ tablespoons red chilli powder adjust accordingly
- ½ tablespoon kashmiri red chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- white vinegar or lime juice to adjust the consistency
Prepare the Lime Preserve
- Thoroughly wash the limes and let them dry completely.12 limes
- Quarter each lime, slicing them all the way down but leave the wedges attached at the end. What we want is whole lime with four wedges that are still attached.
- Put one teaspoon of salt into the cavity of each lime.10 to 12 teaspoons salt
- Now, place each lime into the clean jar. It is okay to press them in if there is a space constraint.
- Let this salted lime sit in a dark place for 7 to 8 days. This step kick-starts the maceration process and softens the limes.
- After 8 days the limes would have released enough juice. But to ensure they are submerged in juice, add some vinegar or more freshly squeezed lime juice and close the jar tightly.¼ cup white vinegar
- Let this sit at room temperature, preferably in a dark place for a minimum of 30 days or more. The more it sits, the softer the lime gets.
Prepare the Pickle
- Heat coconut or sesame oil in a flat-bottomed wide saucepan on low to medium flame.⅓ cup coconut oil
- Add mustard seeds, let it splutter and then add fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida. Saute until fragrant.1 teaspoon mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, 2 pinch asafoetida
- Add the chopped green chillies, garlic and ginger. Saute the mixture until fragrant and ginger gets a bit soft and sticking.6 green chillies, 15 garlic cloves, 2 inch ginger
- Reduce the heat to lowest and add the spice powders and mix well.1 ½ tablespoons red chilli powder, ½ tablespoon kashmiri red chilli powder, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Add the preserved limes along with all the vinegar liquid from the bottle.
- Now if you feel the liquid is not enough for the mixture to come to BOIL, then add some more vinegar and let the mixture come to a boil.white vinegar
- Let it cool completely and transfer to a clean bottle with a dry spoon and store it away from moisture.
- This pickle doesn't need refrigeration in any weather condition. I have tested in all seasons here. If you are not confident to leave it outside, you can keep it in the fridge and use it.
As lime and lemons can be interchanged, I use my stash in a few Moroccan inspired tangine recipes. Just sharing...