We started with this recipe for its simplicity. It fills about a half-gallon initially, and reduces to about a quart later. Wide mouth mason jars are best, unless your lemons are small enough to fit through a narrower opening. You can make it in a couple of quart jars at first and consolidate later, or use a larger jar if you have one.
For the first part, you’ll need about 2 pounds of lemons, 3/4 cup of salt, and 2 teaspoons of turmeric. Wash the lemons well and dry them thoroughly. Mix the turmeric with the salt. Slit the lemons most of the way through, and pour a big spoonful of the salt mixture in the middle and close the lemon. Stuff the stuffed lemons into your jars.
Pour any remaining salt mixture over the lemons and seal up the jars. Make a note in your calendar to check on them in a month, and write the start date on the top of the jar. Many pickle recipes call for the jars to be left in the sun, but this one didn’t specify, so we stuck it in a pantry cupboard, where it was out of the way at room temperature.
The recipe says, “The lemons will leave some water.” A fascinating liquid will gradually accumulate at the bottom of the jar, but it is clearly not just water.
After a while, strands of disintegrating lemon pulp and particles of turmeric are visible in the viscous fluid.
Once your month is up, pour out and reserve the liquid, and take out the lemon pieces to cut them up.
The liquid is syrupy and has an intense salty scent, and the as the turmeric that settled on the bottom wafts out, you’ll remember that this is an Indian recipe.
I like my lemon pieces on the smaller side, so I cut them into eighths rather than the quarters the recipe suggested. You can optionally remove the seeds at this point as well.
Once your lemons are cut into pieces, you’ll need two cups of sugar, four teaspoons of red chili pepper powder (e.g. cayenne), and one teaspoon of asafoetida.
Mix the sugar and spices in with the reserved liquid.
Pour the sugar mixture over the cut lemon pieces. It will take a little while or a little stirring to get most of the air bubbles out so that you can put as much of the mixture as possible in with the lemons.
Many of these pickles seem to last forever if they’re well sealed, but you can start eating it right away. It should gradually improve as the flavors merge over time, and according to the recipe, it should keep for a couple of years. I’m not sure ours will last long enough for us to find out! It’s a fine condiment to go with different types of Indian fare. We like the guilty pleasure of just spreading it on our naan. If you liked this recipe, you might also like our simple marmalade walk through. It’s slightly more complicated, though–that one involves cooking.