Learn how to make Nimbu Ka Achaar or Spicy Indian Lemon Pickle ~ Spicy lemon pickle with garlic and aromatic pickling spices
To Indians ‘Pickle’ is not just a word, it is a sacred word that injects the feeling of happiness and joy! Imagine yourself wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold night, your feet tucked under the blanket while you sip a cup of hot chocolate made by someone you love. You feel warm, relaxed, happy and content… To me when a jar of homemade pickle gifted by my loved ones invokes the same feeling!
Herbs and spices used in Nimbu Ka Achaar/Spicy Indian Lemon Pickle
My country India is diverse country and that diversity doesn’t confine to regions, languages and people. Indian cuisine is as diverse and colourful as the country and the people living there and the varieties of pickle that we make and consume will blow your mind if you are just used the idea of few vegetables immersed in a jar or vinegar! Hundreds of these extraordinary varieties of pickles are the pride of our country and we can’t imagine ending our meals without a smidgen of tongue tickling pickles adorning our plates. Whichever part of the India we might come from, pickle is mostly likely to be part of our earliest food memories that has ingrained into our culture, life and memories. Pickling techniques and the finished products vary from one region to another and even differ from one house to another, but the joy it brings and the bond it creates is same all around the country!
Pickle is a quintessential part of any Indian meal, which sometimes becomes an incentives to make every day home meals, sometimes which can become quite boring. Red hot spicy pickle makes a piquant counterpoint to the staid combination of dal and rice or cold yogurt rice. Little piece of pickle can make even the most boring food taste extraordinary. That is the power of any good Pickle!
Although readymade pickles are flooding the Indian and global markets, the magic of pickling making still continues to be strong in many households in India. The annual ritual of painstaking process of pickle making is still considered sacred and is given much respect it rightly deserves. Spicy, sour, sweet, astringent or salty, pickle is one thing that has the power to awaken my taste buds and memories of hot summer days spent in the company of my grandmother, mother, and loving aunts in the palatial home kitchen who lovingly filled dozens of large ceramic jars with pickles of different kinds.
To me there is nothing that screams ‘I care for you’ than receiving a jar of homemade pickle made with care, love and dedication! When I first tasted a Spicy Lemon Pickle or Nimbu Ka Achaar made by my good friend Vidya few months ago, I almost fell on her feet begging her to share the recipe. Well, not really! She is such a considerate and sweet person that she gave us a jar of Pickle as well as the recipe which she learnt from her mother. The recipe for this Nimbu Ka Achaar or Spicy Lemon Pickle is nothing like what my mother makes. The first step involves curing the wedges of lime or lemon pieces with copious amount of salt for few weeks before adding spices. The most interesting part of this recipe is the cured lemon pieces are cooked with the spices before finally storing in a sterilised jar. The curious ingredient other than the usual pickling spices is something I have unheard of, few garlic pods! Yes, garlic pods are used in making this pickle and surprisingly the combination of lemon/lime and garlic works very well in this Nimbu Achaar!
Like any other Indian Pickle, this Spicy Lemon Pickle is a bit of a hard work and time consuming. But like every other Indian Pickle, it is the most rewarding experience when you finally get to lick and bite the final product. A like, a tingling tongue, and a bite later you fall into the heavenly sensation of food coma… Err, in a good way! ;)
Although some pickle tastes great when consumed at the earliest, this Spicy Lemon Pickle gets better with age. Over several weeks, the spices used in the recipe improves the flavour of the pickle as the tough skin of the limes soften and absorbs the spices due to the natural acidity of the limes, making it all the more pleasing to the taste buds! If you can get hold of small Indian lemons which are yellow in colour and have thin skins, then you really are in for treat as they are the best one to use for this Nimbu Ka Achaar or Spicy Lemon Pickle. Since we don’t get the Indian lemons here, I have used the green limes with comparatively thin skins. So are you ready to add another mouth watering, and seriously amazing pickle recipe to your recipe repertoire? And don’t forget to thank my friend Vidya for sharing her mom’s recipe and also me for bending her hands to share this special Nimbu Achaar or Spicy Lemon Pickle recipe with you all, my lovely readers! :)
Pickling process starts here with just two ingredients ~ Lemons and Salt
Keep the limes in direct sunlight for 2-3 weeks
After 2-3 weeks of curing process
It just gets better with age!
Tongue tickling Spicy Indian Lemon Pickle
Nimbu Achaar/Spicy Lemon Pickle (Spicy Indian lemon pickle with garlic and aromatic pickling spices)
Prep Time: 15 mins
Resting Time: 2-3 weeks
Cooking Time: 15-20 mins
Recipe Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Spice Level: High
Makes: Around 3 cups
Shelf Life: 3-4 months at room temperature and up to 6-8 months when refrigerated
Recipe Source: My friend Vidya
Serving Suggestion: With rice and dal or yogurt rice, dosa, or with any Indian flat breads
4-5 medium Limes or 8-10 Indian Lemons
5-6 Green Chillies, finely chopped (Adjust as per taste)
3 large cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ - 2 cups Salt or as per taste (I used rock salt)
2-3 tbsp Red Chilli Powder (Adjust as per taste)
½ tsp Haldi/Turmeric Powder
1½ - 2 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
½ tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
½ tsp Hing/Asafoetida
2 springs of Curry Leaves
1 tbsp Oil
- Wash and pat dry the lime/lemons. Make sure that there is no moisture left. With the help of a clean and dry knife, cut the limes into halves and cut each halves into 4-6 equal pieces.
- Start to layer the lime and salt in a clean and dry sterilised jar, preferably ceramic or glass jar with a tight lid. First place few lime pieces in a single layer and spread 1-1½ tbsp of salt on top. Continue to layer lime pieces and top them with salt until you exhaust all the limes. Close the jar and leave it in a window sill where there is plenty of sunlight steaming for 2-3 weeks. Make sure that you shake the jar once in a day to move the pieces around in the container without opening the lid. This will help in spreading the salt evenly and softening the lime.
- After 2-3 weeks, the limes/lemon pieces would have softened and changed their skin colour like the picture shown above. This is when you are ready to proceed with next step of pickling.
- Lightly roast the fenugreek seeds until their colour deepens to light red. Let them cool completely before grinding them to fine powder with a help of a pestle and mortar or in a spice grinder. Keep it aside until needed.
- Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds and mustard seeds. When mustard seeds start to pop and splutter, add finely chopped garlic and fry them until they start to brown on the edges.
- Mix in finely chopped green chillies and curry leaves and sauté for few seconds.
- Next add cured lemon pieces along with the juice and stir them for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
- Mix in red chilli powder, fenugreek powder and turmeric powder and stir them well so that each lime piece is coated well with the spices. Add powdered hing and mix them well before switching off the gas.
- Let the Spicy Lemon Pickle or Nimbu Ka Achaar cool down to room temperature before storing it in a clean and dry airtight sterilised jar. It can be stored for 3-4 months in room temperature and upto 6-8 months in refrigerator if made with utmost care and stored in a right condition. You can serve this delicious tongue tickling Nimbu Achaar or Spicy Indian Lemon Pickle with dal and rice, yogurt rice, dosa or any Indian flat breads and enjoy!
- Please make sure all the utensils, spoons and ladles, knife and cutting board and storage jars are dry and moisture free as any moisture content will reduce the life of pickle.
- Make sure that you don’t place the lid when you are cooking the cured lemon pieces.
- You can use the pieces of lime or lemon after you have used up their juice for this Spicy Lemon Pickle recipe. Just store them in a sterilised glass jar and top them with about 1-1½ tbsp salt per limes/lemons.
- If you can get hold of small Indian lemons which are yellow in colour and have thin skins, then you really are in for treat as they are the best one to use for this Spicy Lemon Pickle. Since we don’t get the Indian lemons here, I have used the green limes with comparatively thin skins. If the limes or lemons have thick skins then you will need to double the time to (at least 4 weeks) to cure the lemons before cooking them with spices.