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

Posted Nov 14 2010 12:00am

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 .

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