Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Kerala style preserved lemon pickle

It is called Neer elumichangai or lemon preserved in water. True to its name, the lemons are soaked in an acidic liquid which is mainly composed of lemon juice, salt and a little water. There is no oil which differentiates it from the normal, spicy Indian pickles that are preserved in oil. My grandmother used to send us jars of spicy pickles every summer. This 'pickle' would be made just for me. My mom still makes this for me as a special request. Since I will not be going to India for a while, I have to venture into the making of these lemons.

This pickle is consumed mainly when you are feeling nauseous or having a stomach bug. People who visit hilly areas carry this and when they feel a wave of nausea, quickly chew on the lemon skins to combat it. For me this is a sort of comfort food when teamed with yogurt rice. Of course, you can use the lemon skins for couscous, tagine or any dish that calls for preserved lemons. I also use the liquid with a little olive oil on mesclun greens.

Keralan preserved lemon pickles

3 large lemons (washed and scrubbed well)
1/2 tsp turmeric (optional)
4 serrano chiles or jalapenos, coarsely minced
2 cm fresh ginger, peeled and thinly chopped
salt to taste

Bring about 2 qts of water to a boil. Add turmeric and whole lemons. Cook for 10 min. Remove lemons from water and let them cool.

Mix the chilies and ginger in a bowl. Over another bowl, chop the lemons into quarters, holding them with the palm of your hand. Do not do this on a board because you will lose the juices that come out of the lemons. When you are cutting, look for seeds and remove them. Place the cut up lemons and their juices in the same bowl.

Add the ginger and chilies to the lemon-lemon juice mixture. Add 2 tsp salt or more as required. Mix well. Store in glass jars. When you are pouring them into the jars, push the lemons, chilies and ginger inside such that they get compressed in the juice. There should be a layer of liquid on top. If the liquid does not come to the top, top the jar off with some water. Keep refrigerated. You can use this after a week or so. This will keep forever refrigerated.


  1. Mika, you read my mind! I was just thinking about neer elumichangai today, and here you come up with the recipe. Now I just GOTTA make it... especially as you cant send any over :)

  2. Mika, this recipe looks easy to make. Can we also make it with the Lime (i.e the green skin ones).

  3. I think so Kaleidoscope. My mom makes this with whatever type of lemon/lime that is in season.

    Shammi- Try it and let me know.