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Indian Lime Pickle — 73 Comments

  1. Hi Ted: This site is FANTASTIC! And so are these recipes. I just checked them all out and I am anxious to make the lime pickle dish. You are really good at this fermenting thing and this site is right on. Love the pictures and instructions. Thanks so much for making this site for those of us interested. Love it. SANDRA

    • Sandra, if you are concerned about too much salt, I imagine that after the initial salt curing process that you could rinse a lot of the salt off the limes before finishing the fermentation with the added spices. Would love to hear about variations of some of these recipes you have.

    • Hi,
      Love the recipe! I made the limepickle.com version for a couple of years but never took down the recipe. I was gutted when I could no longer get it. Would you be able to divulge the original recipe? I would be eternally grateful!

  2. Hi,
    This seems like a fantastic recipe. I went out and purchased 36 limes (they were on sale for $1/bag of six). However, 18 limes doesn’t even fit in a one gallon wide mouth jar. Are you talking about key limes? If not regular limes, what should I change the ingredient measurements to? I already did the salt/turmeric/vinegar (used apple cider because I was out of white). If I need to increase amounts, what should I increase them to?
    Thanks!

  3. Hi Michelle, and thank you for your question. It seems all the limes around the markets I shop at are the same smaller size (kind of slightly larer than a golf ball, so it didn’t occur to me that some folks might have very different sized limes. I’ll start working a lot more with weights rather than simply counts from now on. Once I cut my limes, they fit approximately into 1/2 gallon. I can’t know quite the size of your limes, but once cut, I would compare that to the 1/2 gallon figure and if 1 full gallon, I would then double all the ingredients. I’ll go to the market later today and weigh limes and update this recipe so it’s more clear for future lime pickle enthusiasts. thanks again for writing.

    • I’ve done some Moroccan Preserved Lemons before and was at first a bit stumped on how to get them all in the jar. The answer ended up being brute force! Stuff them in and cram them down with stout utensil handle or pestle. Really squish them in there! Most of them will fit. The squished shapes does not seem to effect the process or the later product. Not only does this get more in, but it releases the juice, which helps to cover the whole pickle/ferment.
      Looking above, however it seems that the oil is important, as is the shape of the pulp…Well, if you ever make Preserved lemons, you know what to do!

      • Hi Brian, Thanks for the tip and also for the inspiration to try some Moroccan Preserved Lemons. I’d love to hear more about that too? Is it a fermentation process? What’s the basic procedure?

        • Thanks for the feedback! My experience with Moroccan preserved Lemons has be a long and fun one. They are lemons (Meyer lemons are supposed to be closest to Moroccan ones, any will do)split, rubbed with salt and crammed in a jar. I add spices such as peppercorns cinnamon and bay leaves to the brine but they can be put in alone, too. The lemons release juice as you salt them and stuff them in the jar, but sometimes you need to add extra lemon juice to cover them. They can be unrefrigerated for a really long time ( A year?) but I usually let them ferment/brine for a few months and the put them in the fridge to store.
          I’m not too sure whether this is simply a brine or a ferment. There’s a ton of salt in there and just lemon juice, so I’m not sure if it’s friendly to bacteria. The lemons are quite transformed by the time you pull them out to use. The rinds are the part most folks use and they are supple and easy to dice or slice. The taste is really neat too, lemony, salty but with little acidity or the bitterness of the rind. A lemony but unique taste. A white sort of lacy stuff forms in the brine, but it seems to do little to the taste, good or ill. This may be and indication of some bacterial growth, however. A quick look at some other parts of the internets show that people refer to them as lacto-ferments..who knows if they’re right?!
          As far as using them: I slice them thin and put them in a salad. I line the bottom of my slow cooker with them to make a Moroccan inspired dish. Throw them in a tagine. Slide them under the skin of a chicken you want to roast. Throw the rind and the pulp in a soup that you want to add a rich briny, lemony flavor to.
          Here’s the recipe I’ve been using for years:

          http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Preserved-Lemons-231570

          You really don’t need to follow the salt proportions exactly. Anymore, I just put some salt in the bottom of the jar, slice and salt the lemons add spices and get them in there! Keep adding any extra lemon juice or lemon halves you end up with after cooking over time.
          Enjoy!

          • Brian, a lacto-ferment is the same as a ferment or a brine, it’s done with salt and veggies (or lemons) rather than vinegar (which would make it simply a marinated product). The salt inhibits the ‘bad’ bacteria for long enough that the ‘good’ bacteria is able to get a foothold- lactobacilli. Essentially it’s like making lemon vinegar, or cabbage vinegar for sauerkraut. I even use the extra juice that’s left from my kimchi/sauerkraut/pickles for salad dressing. It’s delicious and also happens to be great for replenishing the gut ‘microbiome’! Thanks for offering the Moroccan Preserved Lemons recipe, it sounds great!

  4. Thanks Brian, I’ll give it a shot once I can scavenge up some lemons. I appreciate your support and inspiration. Funny, just as I was typing this, I smelled lemons. None anywhere near, but it’s the power of suggestion at work….

  5. Hi Ted,
    I love your website your recipes are so useful and easy to follow…I have recently tried out your lime pickle but was wondering what variations can you use…would it work with figs? What about lotus fruits?
    Look forward to hearing your suggestions! Peter

    • I honestly don’t know but am always willing to experiment. I tried mangoes this summer, but I didn’t give it much attention and it got very moldy. I think they were a little too ripe and I didn’t use an airlock or anything beyond a cloth to cover it. I’d try green mangoes with an airlock next time. Figs would be fun, but I think they might just disintegrate once the liquid leached out due to the heavy salt load. Worth trying though. Dried figs might be interesting to try too. Maybe a rind like watermelon would work. Would love to hear of your experiments and see what happens, or if others have suggestions…

  6. Hi Ted!
    Love your site. Just a quick question – do you cover your lime pickle with a cloth or weight it like you would with kraut?
    Thanks so much for sharing all these great recipes, Dina.

  7. YOU DON´T INDICATE WHETHER A T IS A TEASPOON OR A TABLESPOON.YOU DON,T SAY WHETHER TO USE FENUGREEK LEAVES OR SEEDS.PLEASE REPLY AS I AM OTHERWISE INTERESTED IN YOUR RECIPE!

    • Sorry about the confusion. I use “T” for tablespoon and “t” for teaspoon on this site. I’ve only used fenugreek seeds as I haven’t run across fenugreek leaves. It’s a flavor thing so if leaves are similar in flavor to the seeds I’m sure they are fine too. Good luck!

      • Oh – so glad I found the blog. I have never fermented anything ( intentionally) so this is a first for me and I’ve just made it interpreting T as teaspoon … ok, I’ll now add the extra using Tablepsoons!!!
        I have the mixture in a glass / pyrex bowl with a lid that is far from airtight. Should I cover it with cling wrap to keep it airtight? The mixture is sitting on the bench in the kitchen, no direct sunlight & temp of about 20c during the day. Trust that is ok.
        regards
        Kay

  8. Hello!
    Could you also explain what the ‘c’ stands for? If it’s ‘cup’ could you let me know what that measurement is in millilitres (I’m British, it’s the way we do things over here :-)..)
    Thanks!

  9. Sigh … total bliss. Although I was a tad impatient and tried them a week early … my dosas sang with delight … Thank you and am looking forward to trying more of your recipes … Don’t know if you have tried curries with mango powder … addictive as well. Cheers, Dina.

  10. I have been looking at the lime pickle recipe for months and finally made it a few days ago. I have never fermented anything deliberately before so am unsure whether it is supposed to look as it does. Isn’t a ferment supposed to be without oxygen? The lime mixture is fairly dry so the juice generated by cutting them all up isn’t enough to cover the limes. Is this ok or am I supposed to cover it all with brine or something?

    • Emma, it’s definitely wise to keep air and potential mold spores from settling in here, but it’s not a fully-anaerobic-submersed-in-brine type of environment. The higher salt content of this fermentation helps keep the environment stable.

  11. Oh – so glad I found the blog. I have never fermented anything ( intentionally) so this is a first for me and I’ve just made it interpreting T as teaspoon … ok, I’ll now add the extra using Tablepsoons!!!
    I have the mixture in a glass / pyrex bowl with a lid that is far from airtight. Should I cover it with cling wrap to keep it airtight? The mixture is sitting on the bench in the kitchen, no direct sunlight & temp of about 20c during the day. Trust that is ok.
    regards
    Kay

    • You should definitely cover it up. I just updated the post to better explain that. Check it out again. Thanks for the question. Readers questions can often lead me to revise posts for better clarification. Enjoy and let us know how it comes out!

      • Your reply has just come through! Thanks. Great to read the responses.
        Yesterday I completed the 2nd stage, ie week 4. Took a while to find fenugreek seeds in our stores, and then I tried to grind them – oh boy, thank goodness I had an electric grinder! Forget the mortar & pestle! Two weeks to go till we jar it up. I’m beginning to think that perhaps I should have cut the lime wedges into smaller pieces as the lime chunks still look very big!
        Looking forward to tasting home made lime pickle in 2 weeks!!!

  12. Hi – love lime pickle , can´t buy it where I live (very small town) so am having fun with your lovely recipe. However, just wish to know, should I keep the jar of fermenting limes in the fridge or on the sideboard?
    Thank you.

    • Thanks for writing Freyja. Keep it out of the fridge during the fermentation stage. You can put it in there if you like but it will significantly slow down the process. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

      • Thank you for your prompt reply – the jar is now sitting on my kitchen sideboard – looking very interesting. The next few weeks are going to flow very slowly.

  13. I made the original recipe a couple of years ago and have been looking for it ever since – it never occurred to me the site would disappear. So I’m over the moon to have stumbled across this page! I fully agree the chilli powder needed adjusting, but apart from that I thought it was pretty amazing. BUT I seem to remember curry leaves in the recipe? Or am I confusing it with something else? And mustard oil instead of olive oil? You wouldn’t have the original recipe for me to compare with your adjusted one by any chance? Thanks Ted!
    Tamara

    • Hi Tamara. I don’t recall seeing any recipes with curry leaves and mustard oil. Both sound like nice additions. Perhaps I’ll try that in a future batch and see how it goes. Good luck and nice to hear from you!

      • I have been making lime and lemon pickles for years and never needed to use olive oil. Dry roast the mustard seeds, cool before adding to the limes and use mustard oil instead of olive oil. The result will be nearer the genuine Indian pickle (aachar) recipe.

  14. Hi Ted. I tried this recipe in a Pickl-It jar with a fermentation lock, and got zero bubbles. I was told that adding the vinegar at the beginning stage had killed all the probiotic bacteria. This recipe should work perfectly well as a salt cure, but in that case, there’s no need for an airlock. I added the oil and the remaining spices today, and should have an excellent lime pickle eventually, but I’m wondering if the vinegar is necessary at all. Thanks for the recipe.

    • To be honest, Ivan, I’m not certain. You are probably right and perhaps this is more of a “salt cure.” Whatever it is, it’s tasty! If you have any further thoughts, please let us know. Thanks.

      • Well I can tell you it’s a terrific recipe, whether it’s lacto or a salt cure, and I am enjoying it thoroughly. I made it exactly as per instructions, asafetida and all, I recommend it highly, and I thank you for it.

        There’s one refinement I’d like to try next time I make this. I have seen essentially the same recipe on several web sites from India, and the ones from Southern India, where pickles generally are more potent, suggest mustard oil in lieu of olive oil.

        Mustard oil is readily available in Indian groceries, but also comes with some controversy. The FDA says it is only for external use, because it contains erucic acid, which has been said to cause cancer in lab rats. This, of course, ignores entirely that people have been cooking with it in India for centuries. Supposedly if you heat mustard oil to the smoking point, all the purported bad effects of the erucic acid go away, and it becomes safe to eat. So next time I make pickle, that’s what I’m going to try. I hope this is helpful. Thanks again for this recipe.

  15. Hi Ted!! Was super excited to find your site! I bought just regular limes from the grocery store for this recipe and tasted my pickle just after adding the oil and spices. It tastes quite bitter. Would that just be the type of limes I used, or is there something I should have done to avoid this? Thanks!

    • Hi Clara, I honestly don’t know what has brought on the bitterness you speak of. Could be especially bitter lime skins, but the most likely culprit is the mustard seeds. When raw, mustard seeds can have quite a bitterness to them. Give it a little time to mellow out over the next few weeks and see what happens. An option for the future, should it remain bitter would be to heat the mustard seeds before using them. Add them to already hot oil and put a lid on the pan. Keep shaking the pan over the heat so they all heat evenly. After they start popping, remove from the heat and allow to cool. This will reduce the spicy heat from the seeds too.

      Good luck and please write back and let us know what happens, thanks. Ted

      • Hi Ted… so I finished my pickle a little while ago, and you were right, it needed time to mellow. The mustard seeds were primarily contributing to the bitterness of my pickle, however, it’s still a little bitter. I think the limes we get here (in Canada) aren’t the freshest… I may try Key limes next for something a bit more pleasant. My husband is refusing to eat the pickle I’ve made… haha. Also, I was wondering, does using a metal spoon to stir the pickle tend to disrupt the fermentation process? I’ve read that sometimes introducing metal into certain fermentation processes can mess with it. just a thought! Thanks so much for your help!

  16. I used this recipe for cumquat (Australian spelling) pickle. I made it with four kilos of cumquats and expected it to last for years but it was gone within a couple of weeks as every guest took a jar. Fabulous.

  17. I also LOVE lime pickle with a passion and am trying your recipe for the first time. Tomorrow the four weeks are up
    ( I am so excited!!!) so I can start phase 2 of the recipe. Will keep you posted….

  18. Hey Ted.

    Super excited about trying your recipe, it’ll be my first attempt att fermentation. There are a few things I wonder about though, and I hope you can elaborate.

    1, As I’ve understood this recipe, the limes won’t be covered in liquid, they’ll just be sort of mixed with the salt, vinegar and turmeric for the first four weeks. Did I understand you correctly so that I won’t have to add water or worry about everything not being covered by liquid?

    2, I’m planning to use a glass container, but I’m not sure about what sort of kid to use. Could I use the normal lid but not screwed on, to allow gases to get out of the jar? Wouldn’t that also let air in which could contaminate? And, if using a towel instead of a lid, would any kitchen towel do? And if so, do I just cover the top with the towel and fasten it with a rubber band or something similar?
    Cool blog, and I’m really eager to start fermenting.

    • Sounds like you are on track here with your questions. You are correct with #1, no additional liquid is required. As to #2, I just use a normal lid. Gasses do need to escape. Cloth is not as good a barrier, but I use that kind of method occasionally and indeed fasten it with a rubber band. Good luck! Let us know how it comes out!

  19. Hi Ted – I’m so glad to find this site! I hope you can help me –

    I made a batch of lemon pickle from a recipe I have made previously (very similar spices to yours, with about the same ratio of salt, but no vinegar, and it uses oil). Last year’s pickle was delicious, so I was looking forward to making even more this year.

    I washed all the lemons, then let them completely dry, sliced off the stem sections, quartered or eighth-ed them, and dusted them with salt and spices, then added to my ceramic pickle crock and poured in enough oil to barely cover. My recipe suggests leaving the lemons in the crock for only a week, covered by a cloth during the day and a loose lid at night, stirring once or twice daily. I tasted the pickle after one week, and it didn’t really taste pickle-y yet, so I left it another week, when it did taste more like what I am accustomed to. It’s been in the mid-60s (F) here, so I wasn’t that surprised it took a little longer.

    I put that batch in sterile mason jars, and cut up another 32 lemons to make a second batch. I put these lemons with fresh spices and oil into the same pickle crock (which still had the leftover spices and some oil from batch one at the bottom). After a few days I noticed some small bubbles coming up though the oil in the crock, which I don’t remember seeing before. I felt nervous, so I opened up the closed mason jars and boy, did they bubble for a minute or so! The thing is, I don’t remember seeing any bubbles in the crock last year (although they may have been there and I just never noticed), and certainly nothing like that in the jars before. This year I used Meyer lemons, and last year I used Eurekas — the Meyers are so much sweeter – maybe that is the difference?

    So now I’m not sure if I have a potential disaster on my hands, or if this is just the normal process.

    How might I reassure myself that I’m not about to poison myself and my friends? I’d hate to throw out all these lemons if they are really fine, but I’d really hate to make everyone sick!

    Thanks in advance for any advice or guidance!

    • Hi Ann,

      I can’t say anything definitive for you here, unfortunately. Personally, I get excited when I see things start bubbling up, but I also fully trust in the cleanliness of the environment within which I work. If it were me, I’d let it go and see what happens. There are techniques to avoid poisoning yourself like just dabbing some to your cheek first and wait for a reaction. If nothing, then touch to your tongue and wait again. If nothing, then the tiniest of nibbles and wait, etc. Again, I’m not recommending, but these are techniques I learned in a class on foraging wild plants. Good luck!

  20. Great site & great recipe, I have bought Patak’s Lime Pickle for years so was delighted to be able to make my own. I paid more to get organic un-waxed limes, I reckon this is worthwhile as the actual skins are included in the pickle. I have had a gentle fermentation going for a month or more & have just added the oil, etc. The skins are still a little tough, this could just be the nature of lime pickle but I would quite like to get them a little softer, I feel a long maturation period might help but did wonder about heat treating the pickle once it is in the final storage jars. This would effectively give the skins a gentle cooking hopefully softening them, & it would arrest the fermentation so the jars could keep almost indefinitely. I know fermentation purists may be aghast at the thought of killing those beneficial bugs but sometimes long storage is useful.
    A slight variation to the recipe was to add fresh Aji Limon chillies & a good slug of a yellow Aji Limon & Mango sauce I had made. I toasted & crushed the fenugreek seeds.

  21. Hi,
    I’m down to the final 2 weeks with my Lime Pickles & I’m excited, but also rather worried about the asafoetida overwhelming the whole taste! Wow, that stuff is strong smelling – and I’d have to say that to me it is reminiscent of a person with super-strong BO rubbing a raw onion under their arm & then scraping the dried remains of that venture into a jar & passing it off as a herb. Blech! Everything i have read says ‘don’t worry if the asafoetida smells very strong as the cooking process lessons its intensity’ – only there isn’t a cooking process here, soooooo… Fingers crossed that the 2 weeks you’re supposed to leave the mixture to combine after adding it does the same thing, and mellows the pungent odour & flavour (yes, I tasted it already- I’m very impatient!).

    I will post an update in 2 weeks & let you know if it settled or if I’ll be skipping that ingredient next time!

    • Well, OMG – these are delicious! So worth the wait & very, very easy to make, even in a humid, mould prone climate! I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was concerned about the asafoetida overpowering the other flavours, but with the extra 2 weeks the flavour does indeed settle – and maybe I also got used to its pungent odor, as I smelt the mix most days.

      I’ve just had my first real taste of it with lunch & totally love it! I was considering giving away some of the huge jar I’ve made, but I now think that our family of five will go through all of it ourselves, so I think I’m keeping this one just for us!

      Thanks for the recipe! Now that I have all the necessary spices, I just need more limes to start on the next jar! It really is as simple as chop, measure, pour, stir!

  22. Hi I’m just wondering whether you heat the oil and burst the mustard in it before you add it to the limes? Also could you use lemons instead of limes?

    • Heating the mustard seeds would definitely cool the spicy heat of the mustard seeds. Your call on that one. I haven’t tried with lemons so can’t comment unfortunately. If I get my hand on a bunch of lemons I’ll give it a try. If you should try it, please write back and let us know.

  23. Following on from the Jewish festival of Sukkot, I am trying a mix of lime and etrog and await the result with great interest – lime pickle is my favourite!!

  24. Hi Ted
    A friend gave me a jar of this lime pickle the other day it was sensational and I will be giving this a go, would you mind if I share your recipe on a curry forum?

  25. Yesterday was the end of the first fermentation period, so it is now in phase two. Looks and smells fabulous. Can’t wait! But I have to….

  26. Hi Ted
    I Just put lime pickle into jars do they need to be kept in refrigerator or can they be kept in a cupboard and refrigerated once opened?

  27. Hi Ted
    I still have an unopened jar of lime pickle that I made in June 2014. Initially when I first made it, I found the pickle a bit too hot for me, however, it mellowed over time. I’m hoping that the unopened 2014 jar of pickle will still be ok. How long will it keep once opened?
    Thanks

    • You have to be your own judge when it comes to food safety, but I have a little left from around the same time, perhaps longer, and I just recently ate some and it was delicious. Mine mellowed as well. For your next batch, toasting the mustard seeds first definitely helps to release some of the heat. Thanks.

  28. So glad I found this site. I’m new to fermenting and very excited about it. I have a week old batch of Ginger Beet Sauerkraut going and yesterday I started the Kimchi. Both your recipes. Thank you have sharing your expertise, its really helpful when just starting out.

    • I haven’t ever tried without the slight amount of vinegar called for here so can’t say for sure if you can skip it. My hunch would be that you would be fine, especially since the limes bring an acidity which brings the ph down which is one of the functions of adding the vinegar. I always recommend sea salt over iodised salt.

  29. Hi Ted – I got distracted while making this wonderful recipe, and ended up putting everything in the jar all at once – limes, spices, vinegar, oil – before realising I was meant to add half the ingredients 4 weeks down the road! Do I need to start all over? Or can this still work?

    • I honestly don’t know. My hunch is that it will work out just fine. If it were me, I’d simply roll with it and keep my fingers crossed. Good luck. I’m needing to make more of this myself as well. I’ve eaten the last of my last batch and am missing it so!

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