Manisha’s Authentic Indian Lemon Pickle (Limbacha loncha)

by Cynthe on March 26, 2009

Traditional Indian Lemon Pickle cooking the sun\'s warmth

With a surfeit of Meyer lemons from our little trees, had to figure out what to do with them…

Actually, it’s quite fun coming up with bunches of ideas! And I had help. Shankari of Sacramento Spice (formerly Stream Of Consciousness) suggested I make Manisha’s Indian Lemon Pickle, a favorite traditional recipe from Manisha’s family. The recipe & detailed photos are on her blog: Indian Food Rocks. It turned out to be a cooking experiment in delayed gratification & desperate patience!!!

Click Here!2-14-2010
This is the first of our entries for the 2010 Lemon Love Fest at WineImbiber.com

Check out their growing collection of delish Meyer Lemon recipes.

The ingredients are simple:

  • 6 lemons (12 Indian or Meyer lemons, due to smaller size)
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup red chili powder (I used cayenne)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida) powder
  • Juice of 1 lemon (2-3 lemons in India)
  • Large glass jar, approx 2 liters in volume

Made one slight change to the recipe:
Reduced the 1/4 cup Chili powder to ‘ONLY’ 1/8 cup (tsk, tsk) – still a generous amount for the quantity of lemons. (Used cayenne. Wonder is it the same spice as Indian chili powder?) With plenty of chili, sugar & salt, I’m sure the pickling process will proceed just fine.  Will let you know how it comes out.

3 spices plus 3 flavors for traditional Indian Lemon pickle

Shown left to right, top to bottom (clockwise): These are the 3 spices and 3 flavors – besides lemon – used in the recipe. Black Mustard Seed, Hing (Asafoetida) Powder, Methi (Fenugreek) Seed, Organic Sugar, Chili (Cayenne) Powder, and Sea Salt.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *
Sunday, MAR 22nd
Lemon pickle got assembled late afternoon. Could only put it in the sun for the last hour of the day. Will start with a regular sun-up to sundown routine tomorrow.

In the photos (more coming SOON), you will note my use of a rather inelegant jar, a big #14 size glass jar whose lid I’ve managed to lose in my assorted collection of too-many-jars-for-future-projects. But it’s too potentially useful to throw into recycling! (Do others of you have this ‘saving things’ problem?)

Anyway, I’m using saran wrap for a ‘lid’ along with two fat fresh-produce-rubber-bands with asparagus printed on them. (Oh, dear. ‘fraid I may be revealing too much about my kitchen habits already.) Now, if I had my wits about, while photo-styling my own shots, would have made sure you could read those rubber bands. Will rearrange them for my follow-up shots.

Day 1 (of 60), Monday, MAR 23rd
The Lemon Pickle’s “brewing.” My family can’t believe we have to wait TWO months! The house sure smelled like authentic Indian cookery yesterday afternoon…

Day 2, Tuesday, MAR 24th
I’ve worked out the routine, which starts in the sunny parts of the house. It’s still pretty chilly outside in the morning.

8-9:30am ~ Pickle jar is put on the bottom stair where the sun first shines in from the sliding glass doors.

9:30-11am ~ Pickle jar is moved to the upstairs office. Sits on the desk corner near a very sunny window.

11am-1pm ~ Pickle jar is moved outside onto the back stair.

Indian Lemon Pickle \'cooking\' in the sun on the slate patio near a strawberry planter.

1pm-5:30pm  ~ Pickle jar is moved a fourth time to the little slate covered  “sun” patio in the backyard where the sun warms the slate surface for pickle projects, sunbathers, and cats.

5:30-6:30pm ~ Pickle jar, move #5, to a sunny corner by our front door where it cooks in the last hour of daylight.

In the heat of summer, it’s really scorching out front. The brass door handle gets SO hot, it burns your hand if you hold it too long! (Have to find some other sort of attractive sturdy handle for our front door. The brass one tarnishes badly anyway.)

How insane is all this….for authentic lemon pickle!!! Perhaps there’s a bit of ZEN in it?

Occurs to me that our pickle jar pilgrimage is sort of like the silly American grade school ‘Flat Andy’ project, where a comical oversize paper doll is mailed to family & friends to be taken to various places and photographed at those sites.

Perhaps I’ll do that with our pickle jar wanderings… Who ever thought one would get THIS desperate to do photography for a food blog post?

Indian Lemon Pickle \'cooking\' in the last rays of the western sun near our front door by the miniature spiny agaves.

Day 3, Wednesday, MAR 25th
Stirred the contents when I brought the jar in last night. Tasted the juices from the spoon afterwards. YUM! Great taste. So glad I cut the 1/4 cup chili powder down to 1/8 cup. Still PLENTY fiery for our American palettes!

Tonight my sons, Marc (36) and David (soon-to-be 31 in April), while hovering around the jar said there’s NO WAY they can wait two months for this pickle to be done. They may have to go to Apna Bazaar, our local Indian/Pakistani grocery, to purchase a commercial variety, while we wait for our chemistry experiment to mature.

Day 5, Friday, MAR 27th (5th month anniversary since Bri’s death)
This morning when I moved the pickle to its 2nd spot in the day’s travels, noticed a slight bit of ‘whiteness’ on the top layer of pickles. Assume its the little live microbes being stimulated by the slow cooking. And noticed the ‘sauce’ is getting much thicker, when I rotated the jar around to incorporate that top layer and to thoroughly moisten everything.

Manisha is on her way home from their Yosemite / Amtrak vacation. I’ll ask her if this is what I should expect.

Day 6-7, the weekend, MAR 28-29th
Had trouble BOTH days remembering to move the pickle jar around to all it’s locations! Got only 4hrs of sunning on Saturday. Did a bit better on Sunday. Guess my attention lasts less than a week (sigh). All three guys in my household (my hubby Bill, Marc & David – my sons) are taking turns bringing the pickle in from its last sunning spot at our front door. They don’t want anyone stealing our precious pickle!

Spring has arrived in northern California. The morning sun’s angle is changing quickly throughout the house, so have cut one pickle-stop off the ‘wanderings’ routine.

Indian Lemon Pickle juices thickening as it cooks in the sunDays 8-9, Monday & Tuesday, MAR 30th-31st
The sauce is getting thick and sort of creamy, not juicy like it was when this process started. Smells really GOOD! Asked Manisha via Facebook, if I need to add more lemon juice? She replied “Add more juice only if you need more tang. The juices thicken and cling to the lemon pieces. It should not be runny at all. Out here in Colorado, it cooks in about 3 weeks as the summer sun is so intense.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Manisha April 1, 2009 at 7:41 am

Cynthe, it’s a good idea to give the jar a good shake when you bring it in and put it out every day. That ensures that the top layer does not ‘dry’ out or have any sugar or salt crystallizing on it. I have not had issues with ‘whiteness’ and I wonder if it is because I shake the jar well or if it’s the Colorado sun. Your pickle will likely be done sooner than 2 months – mine takes about 3-4 weeks. This is made in ‘winter’ in India when the nimboo is in peak season and the sun’s rays are less effective than in summer.

My friend made this pickle using Meyer lemons from her tree and I reached heaven – I have not tasted such fragrance in a lemon ever before. The Meyer lemons that make it here are almost bland in comparison. Now I must get myself a Meyer lemon tree!

Cynthe Brush April 1, 2009 at 8:34 am

Manisha ~ “A good shake” (or more of a rolling around) is what I have started doing, but with care…since my jar doesn’t have a proper lid.

Our springtime sun’s getting pretty warm (temps in the 70s-80sF), so it looks to me like the pickle will be done quickly as you have experienced in your Colorado summers.

Enjoy your “thunder-snow” and thanks for coming by!

bee April 4, 2009 at 2:59 pm

i’ve made this the last two years. try the lime one too. the one with fresh chillies and ginger. it’s fantastic. i’m still enjoying last year’s batch.

shankari April 8, 2009 at 12:59 pm

We make these every year now.Like Bee said, the one with chillies and ginger is fantastic. I like to have them with piping hot rotis that is brushed with some ghee :)

Cynthe Brush April 8, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Bee & Shankari ~ Thanks for the encouragement to try the lime, fresh ginger, & chillies pickle. Sure we’ll like it. Appreciate how easy it is to make these condiments from scratch using quality ingredients.

All the guys: Marc, David, and Bill are EAGER to taste this first batch. Weather isn’t helping currently with the rain…but no matter, CA’s desperate for rain!

Sylvia Staub November 12, 2010 at 10:45 am

Hi, guys!
How unbelievably terrific to have discovered homemade pickle lovers via the ‘net! If time permitted, I could write a book on fresh lemon “accessories” from around the world, including preserved lemons to be used in Moroccan and Algerian stews, Maharashtrian lemon pickles (the best!), lemons pickled in combo with green chilies, on and on. Years ago, while vacationing in Britain, an elderly Anglo Indian gentleman, living in a retirement center (where the food was boarding- school bland), offered me a jar of lemon pickle he’d made, using nothing more than salt and sun. It was good-good-good. Might be helpful to those of you unused to chilies and Indian spices. My garage houses a circa 1950 GE refrigerator, built like a tank, that in turn houses what I call my “vintage” handmade-homemade pickles, chutnies, relishes. Some of the pickles are 9 years old and still in perfect condition! So, don’t believe what recipe books tell you about the longevity of homemades. By the way, for those of you living in American states that need to save daylight, you can speed up the process by Microwaving your lemon pickles. Ready in less than an hour and, believe me, every bit as good as weeks-long sunning. (Apologies to anti-M’wave cooks.) In Tucson, AZ, where I live, my backyard boasts five citrus trees. Their overwhelming output goes mostly to our Community Food Bank, but partially into my homemade jams, jellies, marinades, pickles, chutnies, salsas, relishes–you name it. WITH LEMONS, YOU’LL LIVE LONGER!

Cynthe November 14, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Sylvia ~ Totally DELIGHTED to read your comment. Sure miss seeing you. Wish we lived closer.

Had no idea you liked to make pickles, relishes, chutneys, jams, etc. Have you considered writing a food blog? You’d be perfect for it. The pickling process in this recipe is from natural yeast in the air I’m sure. (Haven’t analyzed it scientifically.) The batch was quite yummy and several Indian blogger friends rave about a lime & chilies version, which I’ll try next year when warm weather returns.

Have a series of lemony recipes inspired by Bri’s and my love of Meyer lemons and a fun annual Meyer Lemon recipes contest at WineImbiber.com that I stumbled upon last year. Check out WineImbiber’s growing collection of delish Meyer Lemon recipes.

Jim McCabe May 13, 2011 at 11:57 am

I have a batch of the lemon pickles on the way. Is there any risk in eating a food product that has been sitting in the sun for two months? I thought I understood the pickling process, but I am still a bit concerned.

Cynthe May 13, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Jim ~ Glad you’re giving these yummy pickles a try.

Don’t worry though…the sugar ferments and turns to vinegar. Salt, sugar, and vinegar are all natural, non-toxic, non-chemical preservatives, so the pickles will be perfectly safe to eat. (We ate a whole jar and had no problems. Plus it’s a pass-along recipe from a friend whose family has made pickles this way for years.)

In the ancient and ‘olden days,’ before everyone had refrigeration & corner grocery stores, folks preserved foods this way for long term storage to save produce for winter, to take on trips, or to keep food from spoiling in hot and humid climates. Fresh, homemade pickles are SO much better than store bought. Let us know how you like them.

ram July 26, 2011 at 10:01 am

need to understand mangalore style oil free amla pickle

Julie Philp June 21, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Are there any instructions available for “assembling” this pickle recipe.
Regards

Julie

Cynthe June 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Hi Julie, Yes! The pickle instructions are on Indian Food Rocks. The link to that site is in the first paragraph of this post. Have fun!

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