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Indian pickles....it's that time of year!!

Well friends, it's that time of year again!! If you have a yard, or a sunny window, or a utility space that gets sun about 4 hrs or more a day, you can make your own Limbacha Loncha (lemon pickle) or lime pickle!

I use Manisha's recipe for Lemon Pickle Without Oil from the Indian Food Rocks blog http://www.indianfoodrocks.com/2006/05/lemon-pickle-without-oil-picture.html

and this year I tried her solar-cured Lime Pickle as well. I got impatient and put up a jar of each half way through May. It takes about 6 to 8 weeks (depending on temperature, how much is in the jar, and sun exposure). It's been there for about a month, and when I took it in to stir it today I tasted what was left on the spoon. BITTER. Oh dear, thinks I, I've done it wrong.

Then I bethought me....last year when I made Limbacha Loncha was when Jose had his retina surgery and was laid up for a month. I did well to even shake the jars once a day, never mind opening them or tasting the contents. I never touched it till it was finished. How do I know what it tasted like halfway through? A month is a long time when you're sun-curing something. I'm not a patient person  by nature, but I guess I'll have to be!

So I added a good hefty soup-spoonful of sugar to each jar, and left it to itself, stirring or shaking every day. Tasted it today, and it tastes "done." It is also deeeeelicious!! It just needed the time.

After the first of July I am gonna put up another jar of each, never mind that I have a quart of lime pickle now, and a half-gallon of lemon.
What have I learned?
Take your time. Use the sun instead of the crockpot. It's free, and slow is better.
Taste it about half-way through the process, and add a little lemon juice if it's too dry, or a bit of sugar if it's bitter-tasting. Go easy. One lemon, or a soupspoon of sugar, is plenty.
Cut the pieces way smaller than you think you want to, because the peel seems to swell up somewhat, maybe with the juices since there isn't much liquid in the jars.

Patience is a virtue and it's well worth using.

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Hi Yabbit. What do you use them in? I used to always have a small jar of store-bought preserved lemons in my fridge but I would only use them oncein a while and after a year or two they would get funny-looking and I would throw them out and get another jar. Eventually I stopped buying it, but I feel like I am missing out.

Your post makes me want to try to make my own but I just don't know what I would do with them.

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Hi JKL!! Indian pickles aren't usually used "in" things (though my Russian friend who runs a bar used part of the lime pickle I gave her to make Salsa Brava for Patatas Bravas and said it was unbelievable!). They are usually served on the side, with naan, or in restaurants they will bring you a little rack with dishes of pickle and raita. I put some on the side of my plate, particularly when whatever I'm eating has come out a bit "meh" and needs some help.
I have also thrown a spoonful on top of a bowl of salad and mixed it in. Lime pickle is best for that.
In India I doubt they refrigerate pickles, if they have enough salt and acid, and if you remember to stir them around or shake the jar every day or so after they're cured, they should keep fine. Our house gets so cold in winter I don't think refrigeration will be an issue.

I just got creative and put up a jar of grapefruits!! They had a lot of juice, but since they are less acid than lemon or lime (by taste, anyway, even though they're harder on my stomach!) i added the juice of one lemon along with the juice of 2 grapefruit, and upped the salt content a little. I used half chipotle powder (thank you and bless you, Semiveg!) and half powdered red chili, basically because I didn't want to confuse the grapefruit with the lemon pickle once it's done by making it the same colour, but I don't want to use up all my chipotle powder either!!
The grapefruit won't be "done" until the end of September, and I'll let you know how it comes out! It may not work, but hey, half a dozen grapefruits and one lemon isn't going to break the bank.

ETA: I just found out Lime Pickle is called Nimbu Achar. They don't seem to differentiate between lemon and lime, both are "Nimbu" (at least in the language I found recipes in) but Manisha calls her Lemon Pickle "Limbacha Loncha." Whether that's another language or another recipe, I couldn't tell you.

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Hi Yabbit thanks for the info. Sorry for the late reply--I've had problems logging in lately.

The grapefruit pickles sound awesome. Please let me know how they turn out.

I know the outer peel is used in Indian cooking--just a little bit. Madhur Jaffrey has a recipe in her world vegetarian book for green beans which are briefly sauteed and a little bit of preserved lemon peel added at the end.

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As it sits, even in the fridge, it should thicken a lot, almost like a "jam" or preserve. So far the grapefruits don't show any sign of thickening but it's only a week. I think I put in too much grapefruit juice.

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This sounds really interesting. My friend and I started doing wild ferments and trying new things. I love Indian chow so I should give these a try.

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I do think I put too much juice in the grapefruit pickles, they still haven't thickened or collapsed down much, but also it's not as hot as it was, which is good but may have made a difference. They are a lot stronger in flavour (more chipotle presence) but I think it might work, even though I didn't get it quite "right."

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UPDATE: Well I put the grapefruit in the fridge yesterday, as the sun has moved and it's not hot anymore. I think it might continue to "cure" in the fridge (the lemon certainly did) but though I might try again next summer, I doubt it. The lime pickle is too tasty and sure-fire good to waste time with something that isn't a patch on a recipe that I know works. I'm going to take a sample of the grapefruit pickle to my Russian friend and see what she says. But I won't be surprised if the response is "meh." Now I'm mad at myself that I used up some of my chipotle.

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I tried to reply last week but the site was under spam attack and wouldn't let me post.

I don't understand what you mean about "thickening" becuase the preserved lemons I can buy here aren't particularly thick or jammy.  I am sorry if the grapefruit ones don't turn out well because I was imagining they would be refreshing and quite delicious.

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I tried to reply last week but the site was under spam attack and wouldn't let me post.

I don't understand what you mean about "thickening" becuase the preserved lemons I can buy here aren't particularly thick or jammy.  I am sorry if the grapefruit ones don't turn out well because I was imagining they would be refreshing and quite delicious.

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Well it's hard to describe but it definitely does collapse down in the sun and the juices thicken. If you read the pickle posts on Indian Food Rocks, Manisha speaks of certain blends taking longer to thicken in different weather conditions. The lemon and lime most definitely do get thick and "jammy" over time. Try it next summer and you'll see what I mean. Shoot I don't know where you live--if you're in the desert you could probably do it now.

Next year I will try again with the grapefruit; I think I'll use spicy paprika and less juice; maybe instead of grapefruit juice just the juice of 2 lemons, or one grapefruit and one lemon. Manisha says she tried the grapefruit and it molded on her, so maybe I'll also use a smaller jar and fewer fruit.

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