No Oil Sweet and sour LemonPickle11:13 PM
Pickling is an ancient art of preserving seasonal produce. All over the world fruits and vegetables are preserved in oil or brine to enjoy in lean seasons. But for us Indians its much more than that. Pickle for us is that inevitable part of our meal without which our taste buds are not satiated. A breakfast of hot alu paratha on some chilly winter morning is unimaginable without a spoonful of chili pickle on top. Or take our very own humble khichuri. It does not taste the same without some sweet n sour mango pickle at the sides.
And to satisfy that cravings we have a long list of varieties of pickles. In India pickle making is a tradition, which is shared by almost all households. Our mothers and grandmothers have always taken out time in every summer and winter to make those special pickles using the secret family recipes. They will order mangoes in summer and many an afternoons will be spent peeling and cutting and drying them under hot sun. In winter aunts and elder sisters from the neighbourhood will also join in the pickle making process while enjoying the late afternoon sun. They will talk for hours while picking through the tomatoes, chilies or limes with careful eyes. The vegetables would then be cut and mixed with spices. Pungent mustard oils would be poured and the cooking of all the spices with the oil will create a heady aroma, which will stay there for some days bearing the memory.
In our ancestral home we used to have a huge room called Bhandar ghar or food storing room. The room had huge ceramic and earthen pots and most of them were filled with various types of pickles and murabbas. I can still remember those early afternoons when men of the house went to work and unlike other such normal days the kitchen still buzzed with activities. It was a long time consuming process of measuring, dry roasting, grinding, mixing and cooking the spices. but everyone seemed to enjoy that over some chitchatting, leg pulling and gossips. Even they did not mind the month long process of bringing the jars outside every morning to cook it. Later the finished pickles were poured in huge jars with utmost care and stored in the pantry. Every time someone left home for hostel or for work small batches were taken out to pack for them. To make their bland hostel food bearable and also to remind them the love and warmth of home.
My mother still do the same every summer and winter. Though not such big batches that my grandmother used to make but still pretty much a decent quantity to feed her three kids and their families. The two little ones in the family have already picked their favourite and never stay away from ordering Didu to send some more when their jars are empty. Lately I also have started learning and making these pickles and preserves sharing them among family members. I love this process where so much of my family tradition is attached. Every time I refill my elder brother’s stock of Gur aam, his eyes light up. This makes me proud and makes me believe that am walking on the footsteps that have a long history of tradition.
This lemon pickle belongs to Manisha of Indian food Rocks. And there was a time when almost all food bloggers made this pickles and blogged about it. Yes its that popular. But I strongly believe Manisha will disown this version of mine. Blame it on my sweet loving Bengali genes or me but I added way much more sugar than the recipe called for. Sorry, but I like my pickles with sweet and sour taste. I have been making this pickle way before I started blogging and loved the fact that it does not call for any oil or any cooking. All you have to do is mix everything up and then place the jar in the sunniest corner of your home. I placed it on my kitchen windowsill and the notorious Kolkata sun cooked the pickle in a record 4 weeks time. My whole family is crazy about this pickle and every time they see good quality lemons they bring some for me to make this. I have made this pickle with both varieties; the bigger lemons with thick skin and small, thin skinned regular ones. The lemons you see in the picture are from my MIL’s backyard. She wanted a batch of this too and sent me a huge bagful.
Manisha makes the pickle in summer (April) which I also did. But lemons are comparatively cheaper in winter months so am planning to make another batch very soon.
If you want the original version shared by Manisha, please go here. For a sweeter and tangier version check mine below.
No Oil Sweet n SourLemon Pickle
Big Indian Lemons: 9+1 (these are smaller than the ones found in USA but larger than the regular small Indian variety)
Or small Indian limes: 12+2
Green chillies: 25 pieces (or more depending upon your preference)
Ginger: 1 medium piece (the julienned ginger should measure ¾ cup)
Methi seeds (fenugreek seeds): 1 tbsp
Salt: 10 tbsp (many of you seems to be a little skeptical about the amount of salt used here but trust me that is balanced out by the tartness of the lemon juice, sweetness of the sugar and the heat of the ginger and chilies. As no oil or no stove top cooking is done in this recipe, so salt acts as a cooking agent and brings out the juice from the lemon and cooks it through. It softens the hard skin of the lemons too.)
Sugar: 12/3 cups
Turmeric powder: 3 tsp
Split fenugreek seeds: ½ tsp
Split mustard seeds: ½ tsp (also known as sarson ke chawal, these are very easily available in any super market.)
*If unavailable please see the note below.
For the spice mix:
Fenugreek seeds: 1 tsp
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
Asafoetida or hing: ¼ tsp
Before you start the process make sure that the jar and the utensils are clean and dry.
Wash all the lemons, chilies and ginger under running water. Pat them sry with a soft kitchen towel. There should not be any moisture.
If you are using the bigger lemons cut them in half and then cut in 6 pieces. For smaller ones cut them in half and then in quarters.
Remove the stem of the chilies and cut them in 2 or 3 pieces depending on the size.
Peel the ginger and cut them in thin1” long juliennes.
In a big dry glass or ceramic jar take all the cut vegetables. Add the fenugreek seeds, split fenugreek seeds, split mustard seeds, salt, sugar and turmeric powder. Mix and keep aside.
Take all the spices for the spice mix in a small pan. Dry roast on very slow flame till they turn a couple of shades darker. Cool and grind them to a fine powder.
Mix in to the vegetables. Squeeze in the juice of the 2 reserved lemons and give the jar a good shake to combine everything well.
Place the jar out in direct sun to cook. I placed the whole jar on my kitchen windowsill which gets direct sunlight for 4-5 hours a day and mine was done within 4 weeks.
After a day or two you will see lot of juice coming out of the lemons. Check the taste and adjust the sugar, salt or chili level according to your taste. Do remember to give the jar a good shake every day. Keep on stirring the whole thing once in every week.
When the juice thickens almost to a coating consistency, check if the pickle is done by cutting one lemon piece. There should not be any white part in the skin, which takes maximum time to cook. It should be soft and juicy.
Store in a dry and cool place and always take out with a dry spoon.
To make your own split fenugreek and mustard seeds, roast the seeds on very low flame for a minute or so just to make it warm. Take them out in a mortar and using the pestle press the seeds couple of times. The skin of the seeds will break and you will get split seeds.
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