I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I told you that a certain sweet, spicy and sour lemon pickle has been one of the very few bright spots in my life, in the last fortnight or so. I’m talking about the Pahadi Nimbu Ka Achaar or Himachal Pradesh-style lemon pickle I made a few months back.
I’m not sure what type of lemon this is, but it was definitely a beauty, with its heady fragrance and juiciness.
Pahadi Nimbu Ka Achaar, a burst of flavours to brighten a dull life
Let me explain.
We’ve been dealing with a bad viral attack on our family, for over a week now. First, the bub fell sick with a raging fever, along with which came loss of sleep and appetite, extreme crankiness and clinginess. She just took a turn for the better, this last weekend, and I for the worse. Now, it’s me dealing with a raging fever, viral conjunctivitis that refuses to go, dead tastebuds, pain in the limbs, loads of tiredness and an achy throat. Oru udambu la oru kodi prachanai (One crore problems in a single body), as the husband, very kindly, puts it. I have been having a bit of Pahadi Nimbu Ka Achaar with one of my meals every day, and it has definitely helped my tastebuds come out of their stupor, somewhat.
Pahadi Nimbu Ka Achaar or Himachali Sweet & Spicy Lemon Pickle
How I made the Pahadi Nimbu Ka Achaar
So, I spotted these beautiful big lemons at my vegetable vendor’s, a few months back. They looked like imported lemons, but were really fresh and fragrant, and weren’t very expensive either. I tried out one first, in a Lemon Coriander Soup With Vegetables, and the lemon turned out to be so good that I had to go back and buy a few more while stocks lasted. Sadly, the vendor had no idea what type of lemons these are – if you have a clue, please do enlighten me!
At about the same time, I came across this Himachali Sweet & Spicy Lemon Pickle recipe on Tikulicious. I made the pickle following the recipe, with a few variations of my own, and it turned out absolutely brilliant, even if I say so myself.
About this beautiful pickle
The pickle is delicious, the various spices – ajwain, kala namak, methi dana, sarson, dalchini and the likes – going into it making it all the more fragrant and irresistible. It is such an easy thing to make too!
This is an quicker, ‘instant’ version of the traditional Pahadi Nimbu Ka Achaar, which is left out in the sun to soak and for the lemons to get softer. Tikulli says this instant pickle loses some of its nutritive properties as compared to the traditional version, but hey, sometimes you need to take shortcuts depending upon your circumstances! That’s just what I did, and I’d say my life is richer for having discovered this beauty of a pickle. It still is an excellent digestive, I think.
Pahadi Nimbu Ka Achaar recipe
Here’s how I went about making the Pahadi Nimbu Ka Achaar or Himachali Sweet & Spicy Lemon Pickle.
Ingredients (makes about 1 mason jar):
- 4 big ripe and juicy lemons, the size shown in the first picture above
- 1 teaspoon black salt (kala namak)
- 1/4 tablespoon salt (namak)
- 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds (sarson)
- 1/2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
- 1/2 tablespoon red chilli (lal mirch) powder
- 1/2 tablespoon turmeric (haldi) powder
- 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida (hing) powder
- 1/2 inch piece of cinnamon (dalchini)
- 1/2 teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain)
- 1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji)
- 6-8 black peppercorns (kali mirch)
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)
- 4 cloves (laung)
- Seeds from 2 black cardamom (kali elaichi)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup oil
1. Wash the lemons well, and pat dry using a cotton cloth. Take the lemons in a wide vessel, whole. Do not add in any water. Add a little water in the pressure cooker base, then place a stand inside, and place the vessel over this. Make sure no water enters the vessel with the lemons. Pressure cook them for 3 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
2. Take the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cinnamon, ajwain, black peppercorns, saunf, cloves and black cardamom seeds in a small mixer jar. Pulse a couple of times, for a few seconds each, so you get a coarse powder. Keep aside.
3. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, get the cooked lemons out. Let them cool down fully, then cut them into large-ish pieces. There’s no need to pick out the seeds. A lot of juice will flow out while cutting the lemons – reserve it for use in making the pickle. Transfer the lemon pieces to a large mixing bowl, along with all the juice that has oozed out.
4. Add sugar, salt, black salt, turmeric powder, asafoetida, red chilli powder and kalonji to the mixing bowl. Give everything a good mix, using a clean, dry spoon.
5. Take the oil in a pan. Heat it well on medium flame, till it starts smoking. Switch off gas. Pour the hot oil evenly over all the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix well. Your Pahadi Lemon Pickle is ready.
6. Let the pickle cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight bottle. Let it stay out for a day, giving the pickle a mix 3-4 times, with a clean, dry spoon. The sugar will slowly melt to form a liquid, then it will start thickening. Refrigerate the pickle from the second day onwards, and use as needed.
Tips & Tricks
1. Choose ripe, juicy lemons that do not have any obvious blemishes on them.
2. The lemons I used were quite big, as shown in the first picture above. I used 4 of them to make this pickle. The small lemons shown in the second picture are for representational purpose only. You may use any other variety of lemons you prefer. If you are using regular Indian limes/lemons (the ones depicted in the second picture), you would need to use 16-18 of them for the above quantities of spices.
3. Do not add in any water while pressure cooking the lemons.
4. The lemons I used were not too thin-skinned, and neither was the skin very thick. The 3 whistles I gave them were just enough to soften them slightly. Adjust the cooking time and number of whistles as per the type of lemon you use. Don’t overcook them, as they might get mushy or turn bitter. Just cook them enough to soften them. You might want to do one whistle in the pressure cooker, then stop and check on the lemons, decide if they need more cooking.
5. I used regular granulated sugar. You can use it as is; there’s no need to make a syrup. It melts when it comes into contact with the acidity of the lemons, the salt and spices added to them.
6. Jaggery powder can be used in the pickle instead of sugar. You can use a mixture of jaggery powder and sugar too.
7. Adjust the quantity of salt, black salt, sugar and all other spices, as per your taste preferences.
8. I used refined oil to make this pickle. You can use any type of oil you prefer. Traditionally, mustard oil is used to make this pickle.
9. After keeping it at room temperature for a day, store the pickle in the refrigerator the second day onwards. Stored refrigerated and used hygienically, the pickle stays well for several months. I made this pickle about 3 months ago, and have been storing it refrigerated in a glass bottle – it’s still going strong! I didn’t sterilise the bottle before use, but you may if you want to.
10. If the lemons you are using have very thin skin, your pickle will be ready to use as soon as it is made. Mine had medium-thick skin, so they had to be marinated for about 2 days before I could start using the pickle.
11. Some people add heated and then cooled oil to their pickles. We add hot oil.
Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!