Let me start off by saying that this recipe is well-intentioned, but… uh… a little non-authentic. Being of British birth and Australian upbringing, I am much better versed in making orange marmalade than lime pickle, though I have eaten enough of the latter to sink a small dinghy.
A few years ago, I dabbled in the creation of my own mango chutney, which was delicious but a little Westernised. This lime pickle is similar, if not the same; inspired by the cuisine that’s close to my heart but not naturally embedded in my brain.
I decided to make lime pickle about three days ago, after being gifted with a bag of fresh limes by my lovely colleague, Joyce. One of the interesting things about being a food blogger is that people everywhere seem to ‘gift’ you with their superfluous produce, whether it be from their own gardens (Great! So far I’ve been given a lot of citrus, herbs, a couple of knobbly red peppers and some beautiful home-grown squash) or from their refrigerators (Not so good. As in, “…oh, I’ve got this half-finished bag of two-week-old slightly-decaying spinach left in my vegetable crisper. I’m not going to use it, would you like it for your blog?”). As for the limes, well… as per usual, I excitedly carried them back to my office and squirreled them into my desk drawer.
When the end of the day arrived, I took my little bag of glistening green orbs and carried them home. Then I stared at them for about ten minutes before searching in my cupboard for some mustard seeds.
From the archive of my brain, most lime pickles seem to contain four main ingredients: fresh limes (uh, yep), mustard seeds (brown or black seem to be used interchangeably), garlic and spices. I’ve tasted sickly sweet ones and acidic, hot varieties that burn at the back of your throat. Though all are great with a range of curries, naan bread and buckets of saffron rice, I do prefer the less sweet, more spicy versions with a lingering acidity and softened, tender chunks of lime peel.
The version that I made today is based on a recipe by Alison Adams. It’s relatively simple, but requires a bit of time for the lime peel to cure in salt prior to cooking. The recipe itself contains the ingredients I listed above with additional fresh ginger, chilli, brown sugar and pungent, nutty mustard seed oil.
In a diversion from the recipe, I boiled the mixture down for about an hour (see, I told you I’m used to making marmalade) until it was glossy, fragrant and speckled with blackened mustard seeds. The lime peel still has resistance to the bite but melts upon chewing to release a fragrant, complex mouthful of slightly tart, spicy goodness. So good.
It tastes delicious with traditional (or non-traditional) Indian curries, rice and breads… or, if you’re a rule-breaker like me, slather it onto a piece of crusty French bread to enjoy with some great hard cheese.
Indian Lime Pickle
Makes about 2 cups/500mL
- 8 whole, fresh unwaxed limes
- 1-2 tbsp salt (start with a little and add extra to ensure that your limes are thoroughly covered during the curing process)
- 2 tbsp mustard seed oil
- 2 tsp mustard seeds (I used yellow)
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2cm-piece fresh young ginger, scraped
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 – 1 tsp chilli powder, to taste
- 250ml (1 cup) water
- 125g (3/4 cup, lightly packed) brown sugar
- 2 tbs white vinegar
Prepare your limes: Cut each lime into 8 wedges. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Mix, cover and set aside in a cool, dry place for 2 days, stirring occasionally.
To cook: Heat the mustard seed oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook without stirring until the seeds start to pop (be careful here, as they jump). Finely chop or crush your ginger and garlic. Add these to the pot with the cumin, coriander and chilli powder. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until aromatic and lightly browned.
Add the water, sugar, vinegar and your salted lime mixture, including the juices that have collected in the bottom of the bowl (note: if you find the collected juice to be too salty, discard it and rinse your limes in some fresh water before tipping them into the pan. Taste as you go!).
Stir well, and bring to the boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45-60 minutes or until the mixture thickens and the lime peels soften considerably. The flesh will break down slightly and create a beautifully aromatic, glossy liquid. Taste and add more chilli, sugar or salt as required.
Sterilise two 250-300mL jars. Whilst your pickle is still hot, fill the jars and seal them immediately. Invert for 5 minutes to ensure the lids seal properly. Leave the jars for 1 week before eating to develop the flavours.
- Choose unwaxed, heavy limes that are bright green and fragrant. These have the most juice and will add the most flavour to your pickle.
- Mustard seed oil is a beautifully pungent, nutty and rich oil that tastes amazing when used to cook Indian food. Though this oil doesn’t rank as highly as coconut, olive or pure walnut oil in terms of nutritional content, it’s low in saturated fat and it does contain some heart healthy Omega 3.
- Label, date and store this pickle in a cool place for up to 6 months. Once opened, it needs to be refrigerated but will keep fresh for about 2 months under normal conditions. I mean, if you don’t have a curry fiend living in your house. Or if you haven’t discovered how amazing this pickle tastes with cheese. Mm, cheese.