Lime pickle, or nimbu ka achaar, is a popular dish served in India. There are no pickles in it; rather the lime itself is pickled.
Lime pickle is surprisingly easy to make, but it does take patience and time for them to come out just right. This recipe requires putting a lime mixture in a pickling jar and leaving it for two weeks so it can ferment, hence the extra time involved. (Some recipes use a four-week duration for fermentation.)
Note: Mustard oil is illegal to sell for consumption in the U.S. and Canada, as it has been tied to health warnings. You can, however, still find mustard oil in some stores being sold as an essential oil or massage oil. Mustard oil is derived from mustard seeds. It has a nice flavor, and the allyl isothiocyanate gives it a pungent aroma. The erucic acid in it is said to be toxic when ingested.
For this recipe, you can another vegetable oil like extra-virgin olive oil as a substitute. Peanut oil and rice bran oil are some other choices. Ginger and balsamic vinegar can also be used in place of the mustard oil.
- 2 dozen medium to large limes quartered (remove seeds if you like)
- 3/4 cup white rock/sea salt
- 1/4 cup black rock salt
- 8 tsp. aniseed/fennel seeds roasted and coarsely ground
- 8 tsp. mustard seeds powdered
- 8 tbsp. chili powder
- 3 tsp. turmeric powder
- 2 cups mustard oil
- 2 tsp. mustard seeds
- 1 tsp. asafetida
- Sterilize and dry a glass pickling jar.
- Put the limes into it, cover with the white and black salts and mix well. Cover the jar tightly and keep it out in the sun for two weeks (this is the part where you must have patience!). The limes turn a pale brown color in this time.
- Mix the mustard powder, fennel, chili, and turmeric powders together and add the spices to the limes. Mix thoroughly.
- In a pan, heat the mustard oil to smoking point and add the mustard seeds. They will splutter. When done add the asafetida and immediately turn off the fire.
- Pour this hot oil over the limes and mix everything well.
- Allow the pickle to "rest" for a week before eating it.
- Serve with rice, Chapati (Indian flatbread) or stuffed parathas.
When it's all said and done -- and the food is prepared -- you will have a dish with sour tart lime and hot spices blended to perfect Indian culinary perfection. Lime pickle can be served over a variety of foods including rice or lentils. Not only is it delicious, but fermented foods are said to have a long list of health benefits, so it can be a healthful meal addition as well.