I cannot imagine a lunch or dinner going without a pickle on the side. It is a given fact that a curd rice or a simple Roti or Chappati can be had just with a pickle without any add on side dish. And out of all the pickles, Lemon pickle is my favorite.
But we get bogged down with the idea that we cannot make the pickle which would remain for a long period without spoiling. I am going to give a simple method for making Lemon Pickle at home which can be stored for more than a year. Lemons are available all-round the year. In winter, it is available cheap since the demand for other purposes like Lemon Juice etc reduce. So, winter is the right time to make this pickle in a very simple way and store for a long time without any preservative. This pickle is made in the typical South Indian way.
To marinate Lemons:
Medium Sized Lemons – 15 (about 750 Gms)
Rock Salt – ¾ cups (roasted for 2 minutes in medium flame, cooled and powdered)
Turmeric Powder – ¾ tsp
For tempering and seasoning:
Fenugreek Seeds- 1 tsp
Mustard Seeds – 1 ½ tbsp
Red Chilli Powder -3/4 cup
Oil – 3 tbsp
Asafoetida – 1 tsp
Generally people select thin skinned Lemons for Lemon Pickle. But I prefer thick skinned Lemons since the pickle would be tastier with thick skinned pickle. But, pickles with thick skinned Lemons will become dry within a week. To overcome this, I adopt a simple method. Squeeze out the juice first and collect the juice separately. Remove the seeds from the juice. Now, cut the Lemon peels (after extracting the juice) into small pieces (bite size). Add these pieces to the juice. Add Salt and Turmeric and mix. Keep aside for 5 days. It will become juicy. If you want the pickle to be juicier, start preparing the pickle on the fourth day itself.
Select the lemons that are without blemishes. Wash and wipe the Lemons with a clean cloth and let them dry (in the sense that there is no trace of water on them).
Cut the Lemons into halves and squeeze out the juice with a squeezer. Collect the juice in glass or ceramic vessels. (If we collect it in metal or alloy vessels, the acidic nature of the Lemon will react with the metal. Avoid using metal vessels.). Remove the seeds from this Lemon juice and discard the seeds.
Now, cut the Lemon peels into equal sized pieces – I cut them into 8 pieces (four of one half and four of another). Add these pieces to the Lemon juice what we extracted.
Add ¾ of the Salt. Mix well for a minute. Taste the juice for Salt. The saltiness should be a little on the higher side, but not too salty. Add more Salt if required. Add the Turmeric Powder. Mix well. Now it is ready for marination.
Cover the vessel with a clean dry cloth and place a lid on the top. Keep it in a dry place. Mix the Lemon pieces daily very well with a clean and dry spoon. Ensure that the spoon is clean and dry before use , else the pickle may get spoiled.
The pickle will get fully marinated in five days. Just cut one piece with the spoon or a knife. The piece would be soft and get cut easily. That would be the indication that the pieces have marinated well.
(You can store this as it is in a clean and dry glass bottle with a cap and use it as it is without any seasoning also.)
Now, let us start to prepare the spicy Lemon Pickle.
Dry roast the Fenugreek seeds for a minute in low medium flame. Add Mustard Seeds and roast for few more seconds. Allow them cool and then grind them together to a fine powder.
Add this powder and the Red Chilli Powder to the marinated Lemon and mix well with a clean and dry spoon.
Heat the Oil in a pan. When the Oil becomes hot, add the Mustard Seeds and allow them to crackle. Add Asafoetida and switch off the flame immediately. Stir this seasoning and add to the Lemon pickle. Mix them well. Cover and allow it to rest overnight.
Mix them well once again the next day. The color might have enhanced by this time. You can adjust Salt, if required, at this stage.
Store it in a sterilized, clean, dry, air tight glass bottle.
You can enjoy this spicy, tasty pickle thru the year. It is an ideal combination for Curd Rice. Ensure that the bottle is kept closed all the time after removing required quantity every time.
The pickle remains best for an year at least if the method is followed strictly while preparing. There should not be any moisture on any of the items used – the cutting board, knife, spoon, vessels, cloth, lemon squeezer etc. Even the Lemon should be wiped clean of any moisture before cutting.
The amount of Salt used may have to be varied a little depending on the quality of Lemon used. Some Lemons may be more tangy and may need more Salt.
For daily use, remove some quantity from the main container and store in a small container for daily use. This will help in not exposing the pickle to atmosphere for longer periods. Whenever you want to take out the pickle, ensure that you use a clean and dry spoon only. After removing required quantity, level the top surface and close the bottle tightly. Wipe out any pickle traces from the outside the bottle or cover etc.
If you use metal spoons to remove the pickles, do not leave them with the pickle. Use fresh spoons every time. If you leave the spoon with the pickle, it is likely to get rusted and spoiled. It will spoil the pickle also.