When it’s full-tilt lime season, a healthy tree produces almost more fruit than you can imagine using. You can whip up a lime pie (March 21, 2013) or an avocado sauce (March 3, 2013), but still there’s more. That’s when I turn to pickling, an age-old way to make use of “more than plenty.” I first tasted lime pickles at an Indian restaurant in London in 1967 toward the end of my first trip to Europe. The sojourn had begun in NYC on a Yugoslav freighter, an all-the-rage cheap way to get to Europe in those days, bound for Casablanca. There, my senses were primed by the exotic smells that lured me to the spice market and captured my culinary imagination forever, tickling it to this day.
While Indian lime pickles most typically include oil, I have come to prefer an oil-less rendition. I was always dissatisfied with the texture of my homemade ones and realized one day, enjoying some of my sister Arayah Jenanyan’s salted limes, that no oil was the secret to the texture issue and adding Indian spices was the key to duplicating the taste sensation from those many years ago. The technique is easy to do, but it requires some time for the limes to soften and become imbued with the seasonings, so it’s a project for patience.
For 1 pint pickled limes
5 medium-size limes (about 12 ounces), washed, dried, and cut into 4 wedges each
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon pure chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1. Toast the mustard seeds in a microwave or dry skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to pop, 3 minutes either way. Transfer them to a medium-size bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and mix with your hands, squeezing the limes gently to release some of their juice.
2. Transfer the mixture to a glass pint jar, pressing down on the limes so they all fit in. Cover and set aside in a sunny place for 3 days, turning once a day.
3. On the fourth day, transfer the jar to the refrigerator and let cure for one week, turning once a day, then serve and enjoy. The pickles will keep for several weeks.