It’s a good year for citrus, and I’ve come across a few mystery specimens lately, all very tart. Lemons that look like sour oranges with a lumpy, thick zest. Kumquats that were maybe calamondins. Some called calamondins, but biger, with skin and pith as thick as an orange. Something labeled meyers that were orange and more sour than a regular lemon. Rather than attempt to decipher the cultivars, I’ve just been enjoying them!
Indian Lemon Pickle
A friend’s mom from India fed me some lemon pickle. Wow!!!! Sour!!!! Salty!!!! Spicy, too! It looked as if it was going to be killer spicy, but it was only medium heat. It can be served as a condiment on the table, like with rice and cooked greens. It’s good in a vinaigrette. Any leftover soup or stew suddenly becomes new and exciting! I’m going to try marinating some chicken in it before grilling.
To make Indian lemon pickle, cut sour citrus into small pieces (about 2 cups) and remove the seeds. Add juice to nearly cover the fruit.
Add salt (2 tablespoons) and turmeric (1/2 teaspoon). The spices can be omitted if desired, like classic Moroccan preserved lemons used in cooking or Vietnamese lemons used in lemonade. I’m sure many other cuisines ferment citrus also.
Cover and let ferment at room temperature for a week or two, stirring daily. When the fruit is soft, it is ready to enjoy or spice further.
Dry toast fenugreek seed (1 tablespoon), cool and grind. Gently heat oil (3 tablespoons) and cook black mustard seeds (half teaspoon) until they sputter! Turn down the heat and add asafoetida powder (1 teaspoon) and the prepared fenugreek. Cook briefly while stirring.
Add the cooled spicy oil mixture and the chile to the lemon and taste! It stores beautifully in the refrigerator for a long time, thanks to high salt content. Keep the citrus pieces submerged in the brine. The salt can be reduced, but it may not keep as well.
On a creative streak, I decided to use Mano Y Metate Adobo powder in place of the other spices. I cooked Adobo powder (half a tin) in oil (3 tablespoons, cooled and added to the same fermented lemons. Yummy! The fenugreek seed in the other batch has a slight bitter edge that the Adobo version did not have. The richness of the sesame tempered the sharpness of the lemon, but it is still very potent. Perfect for tacos!!!!
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon has a recipe for a fermented Orange or Kumquat Marmalade, so I had to try.
I chopped three heaping cups of sour citrus and added one tablespoon salt, half a cup filtered water, a quarter cup evaporated cane juice (granulated sugar would be fine) and one quarter cup whey (drained from yogurt) as a starter culture. Fruit normally has enough beneficial Lactobacillus cultures and the salt favors their growth over the harmful microorganisms. However, I followed the recipe since this jar had lower salt concentration and added sugar. (The sugar favors different beneficial cultures to grow.) After sitting for a couple weeks and stirring daily, it was slightly fizzy and delicious!
I made some with sliced fruit and some with fruit chopped in the food processor. The barely salty “brine” was less sour than the ferments in sour juice, slightly sweet, and tasty to sip! We ate the softened fruit on buttered toast, with or without additional evaporated cane juice sprinkled on top. Honey would be good, too.
Enjoy, and happy experimenting!