South Indian-Style Meyer Lemon Pickles

This dish is an amalgamation of influences. The spices are Indian. The lemons are Californian. The peppers are Mexican.

South Asian lemon and lime pickles are typically cooked in the sun, the flavors soaking up the rays and developing over time. They often contain a bit of oil, a counterpart to their lip-smacking acidity. But lemon season in California is in the middle of winter, where the sun isn’t strong enough to cook much. And I wanted an oil-less pickle. Something fresh, spicy and bright to complement a seafood curry.

Enter Meyer lemon pickles. If you’re lucky enough to have access to Meyer lemons, you’ll know that they’re sweeter and juicier than you’re average lemon. We have a tree full of them, and so I experimented until I had the perfect lemon pickle. I’ve made jar after jar of these: my family asks for them now, too (lemon pickles go just as well with Iranian khoresh as they do with South Asian curry).

You’ll have to wait at least a couple of months for this pickle to be ready to eat: the peels will soften (the tastiest part), the juices will rise, and the flavors will really develop over time. Make sure to make a couple of extra jars. They won’t last long.

South Indian style Meyer lemon pickle

Ingredients:

8 Meyer lemons plus 1/2 Meyer lemon
7 green chiles (preferably Serrano), halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon minced ginger
5 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (optional)
1 teaspoon turmeric

1. Wash and dry the 8 lemons thoroughly. Cut off the tops and ends, quarter lengthwise, and then cut each quarter into halves or thirds along the length.

2. Place the lemons in a large bowl and toss with salt and turmeric.

3. In the meantime, toast the mustard seeds, fenugreek, and asafoetida (if using) in a small pan until lightly toasted. Let cool and grind to a powder.

4. Add the spice mixture, cayenne pepper, ginger, green pepper, and juice of remaining 1/2 lemon and mix thoroughly. Divide between cleaned and sterilized jars. Seal and refrigerate, mixing every two days for the first two weeks. Wait at least 2 months before eating.

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