This entire blog and facebook page all got started because I mailed a jar of lemon pickles to my friend Barbara Segal. She’s a wonderful artist and she made me a bright and colorful thank you card that adorns my refrigerator to this day.
I loved the bright rich colors and I persuaded her to design some labels for the pickles and draw some vegetables for me. I was chatting with one of my sisters in law from Chennai and she suggested sharing/publishing my recipes. Before I knew what was happening I had a Facebook page, a cooking blog and people were asking me how to make adai batter. Chefs from three star restaurants and middle aged women in India were following my page. It was almost work now. But I have persisted. Several of my favorite pastimes came together; cooking, photography, design, web development, writing and entertaining. And best of all enjoyed cooking for and with my little daughter who has shared these experiences with me since she was three. She is seven now.
I still really enjoy making pickles. Every batch takes its time and each has a unique set of flavors. I always come back to lemon and lime pickles. These were a staple in our home when we were growing up in India. My grandmother had these tall ceramic jars, each with a different pickle inside. She was the only one who was allowed to touch them and she had a separate long spoon for each one. She would handle them with a sterile care you could only find in a surgery. The spoon had to be clean and dry. The slightest moisture would cause the pickles to go bad. Her hands would be rinsed and dried with a clean towel. She would reach in carefully, taking care not to touch the pickles with her hand. Gently, she would transfer a small amount of the pickles into yet another smaller jar for weekly use. Lemons, mango, citron, gooseberries; these and other fruits would be pickled at various times and stored. All of us loved the lemon pickles best. When no one was looking we would steal some and rinse them off and eat them. If our father caught us at it we had to share the spoils with him.
Lemon Pickles with cranberry and ginger
Lemons – 12
Fresh Ginger ( tender) minced – 1 cup
Thai Chilies – slit – 12 -16
Kosher Salt – 12 tsp
Sugar – 1 tbsp
Light sesame oil – 1.5 cups
Canola Oil – 1.5 cups
Ground turmeric – 3 tsp
Chili Powder – 6 tsp
Fenugreek seeds roasted and ground – 2 tsp
Asafoetida powder – 2 tsp
Dried chilies – 6
Black mustard seed – 2 tsp
Fresh cranberries optional – 1 cup
Cut the lemons and place in a clean dry bowl. Add the chopped ginger, cranberries and chilies and toss with the salt. Allow this to marinade covered on your kitchen counter for a few days. Toss them daily to ensure all the fruit marinades in the salt.
In a heavy bottomed pan dry roast fenugreek seeds stirring them frequently till they are evenly roasted and dark. Grind them in a mortar and reserve.
Heat the oil in the pan and add the mustard seeds when the oil is just beginning to smoke and let them splutter.
Add the dried chilies, asafoetida, turmeric, fenugreek powder and chili powder and stir for a few seconds and add the contents of the bowl and stir. Lower the heat and stir the mixture gently for a few minutes till it comes to a gentle boil. Turn off the heat and allow to cool uncovered. Transfer into clean dry jars. Refrigerate. They can be eaten immediately but will have a fresh and slightly bitter flavor. These pickles mellow with age and taste best after a month or two.