A few weeks ago, I got a chance to buy fresh Kaagji Lemons from a local vegetable vendor. These lemons are quite green on the outside and are extremely juicy. These are not as aromatic as the “Gondhoraaj Lebu” variety found in Kolkata. But these are beautiful in themselves and flavourful enough to give them a special treatment. I wanted to pickle the entire batch before the monsoons begin here in Mumbai, so I started a few weeks ago. On the first day, I marinated chopped lemons (with peels intact) with black salt. The lemons and salt rested under the sun for three days, until the skins of the lemon pieces were soft enough.
While I prepared the pickle masala, I thought of my maternal grandparents. My Grandmother (Dida) was God-gifted in terms of creativity. Whenever I visited my grandparents’ house as a child, I was awestruck by the sheer variety of pickles that she made! She made pickles out of anything and everything, it seemed. And each jar of pickles tasted so different than the other. It was such a comforting sight to see jars of different kinds of pickles lined up at one corner of the vegetable garden. Every afternoon, my Dida would lovingly take out little pickle for me to taste. It was perfect each time I tasted. I wondered if I could ever make such good pickles when I grew up. It was as if Alice was in her wonderland!
The wonderland is no more. My grandparents expired a few years ago. But the love of my Dida still somehow reflects in the pickles that I make for my family. This lemon pickle is not a Bengali-style pickle, however. This smells of my childhood days in New Delhi. A North-Indian Lemon pickle that is just right to beat the summer heat. Yes, when it is extremely hot outside and you don’t feel like eating anything, have roti with this lemon pickle that is redolent of aromatic garam masala. Rustic food at its simplest!
North-Indian-Style Lemon Pickle
- Sterilised glass jar
- A big steel or a glass bowl
- muslin cloth
- 4 Large
lemons (chopped into pieces with skin intact)
- 3 tbsp Black
- 1.5 tbsp Fenugreek
- 1.5 tbsp Carom
- 4 Black
- 10 Green
- 1.5 tbsp Black
- 2.5 tsp Red
- 8 tsp Sugar
- 5 tsp Jaggery
- Mustard Oil (to submerge the pickle)
Wash the lemons and pat-dry. Cut the lemons with skin-on into bite-sized pieces. There should be no trace of water in the lemons, the utensil and in your hands. Rub the lemons with black salt and cover the utensil with a muslin cloth. Keep this in the direct heat for three days, mixing the contents in between.
- After three days, the lemon peels lose their colour completely and become very soft. Now the lemon pieces are ready to be pickled.
- Lightly toast the fenugreek and the carom seeds and grind to a fine powder. Remove the peels of the cardamoms and grind the cardamom seeds into powder, too.
- In a clean, water-free bowl, add the above powders, black pepper powder, red chilli powder, sugar and jaggery. Mix with hand.
- Add the brined lemon with all its juices. Mix everything together.
- Put the pickle into a sterilised jar and top up with mustard oil, sufficient enough to submerge the pickle. Using a big spoon, give the pickle a good stir, so that mustard oil coats all the lemon pieces.
- Keep it under the direct sun for 15 days. The bitterness of fenugreek seeds and carom seeds fade away in 15 days, giving the pickle a well-rounded flavour. The overall flavour is not quite sweet, but very balanced.
Did you like this recipe? Follow me on Instagram (@purabinaha) for more food fun!
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