Friday, July 3, 2015

Nimbekai Uppinakai- South Indian Lime Pickle

Yes. I know. I have been away for more than a month. But what can you do when family and life demands all your time and attention? During the last few weeks, there have been a number of religious togethers, Birthday parties, the kiddos Graduation from Kindergarten and some ill health as well. Both Purvi and S suffered from the seasonal flu. It was both frustrating and heart wrenching to see them suffer. So when so much is happening around you, blogging and photography invariably takes a back seat. Things have settled down since the last couple of days. So I could finally sit down to work on this post that has been in my drafts for a long time.

The nimbekai uppinakai or the South Indian Lime pickle is a staple in most South Indian houses. Since lime and lemons are available all year long, we were sure to find a big bottle of lime pickle in my Grand parents home. According to me, my grad mother made the best lemon pickle. I still remember her sitting in the tiny portico with an aluminum colander filled with bright yellow lemons. Some times she would be working alone. Sometimes, she would have a neighbor or a friend to accompany her. They would patiently cut and squeeze out the limes and gossip. Her lime pickle would taste slightly different from others because she used to add makali beru or the sarsaparilla root. It is a root that is known for it's cooling properties. It also gives an astringent taste to the pickle. Gosh how I miss her and how I miss her lime pickle.

I have always believed the process of pickling to be an art. You either get it or you don't. And I certainly didn't. At least I thought so, as my first couple of attempts were a huge disaster. Despite observing all the cleanliness and hygiene, my pickles ended up in a rotten mess. It was very discouraging and I gave up making pickles. It was almost a year back when my good friend Sailaja who is an expert in making pickles and preserves, volunteered to help me. She suggested I try making lime pickles as they are easy to make and quite forgiving. She patiently taught me every step of making the pickle and the final outcome was very encouraging. The pickle turned out finger licking  good!!! From then on, there was no looking back. I made the lime pickle two more times and I even tried my hand at making the mango pickle. All thanks to Sailaja!!!

If you have never tried your hand at pickling for the fear of ruining it, or whatever, then I suggest you give it a try. The process might seem a little too laborious and stringent but it is very gratifying at the same time. There is something about that distinctive aroma that hits your senses. Especially when you wait for at least a month of the pickle to marinate. You can be assured to be transported to heaven.

Nimbekai Uppinakai recipe:
Preparation time: 1-2hrs+marinating time
Cooking time- nil
Makes- approximately 3cups

Lime- 35-45 (quantity varies according to the size)
Iodine free Salt- 1/2 cup
Kashmiri Red chili powder- 1/4 cup
Fenugreek seeds- 1/2tsp, Roasted and ground to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle
Seasoning ingredients
Groundnut oil- 1/4 cup
Mustard seeds- 1/2tsp
Asafetida- 1/4tsp

You will also need:
A glass or a porcelain jar with a tight lid of 1ltr capacity.
Parchment paper or a clean cotton or muslin cloth
A wooden spoon
A large steel or glass mixing bowl.

  • Wash, wipe and clean the limes with a clean towel and allow it sundry for 30min.
  • Cut the lime into eight portions with a clean knife. Deseed them as much as possible. The chopped lemon should measure 3cups or 720ml.
  • Extract the juice out of the remaining limes. The juice extracted should measure 3/4the cup.
  • Layer the bottom of a clean sterilized Jar with a tea spoon of salt and top it with a layer of cut lime. Continue add the salt and lime pieces in alternating layers till all the lemon pieces are covered with salt. 
  • Add the extracted lemon juice and cover the jar with a parchment paper or a clean muslin cloth. Secure it tightly with the lid and allow it to stand for 2-3 days in a dry area. Keep shaking the container every 12hrs.
  • By the end of the third day, the salt would have dissolved and mixed well with the lime pieces.
  • Empty the jar of the preserved lime to a clean bowl. Add the red chili powder, fenugreek seed powder and mix well with a clean wooden spoon. Transfer the pickle back to the jar. Secure the mouth with the parchment paper and the lid and allow it stand for at least 3-4 weeks. By the end of the 4th week, the lime pieces should be very soft. To test if the pickle is done, spoon and piece of lime and try cutting it with your fingers. If the pickle is done, then the lime piece can be cut with minimum force. Also, the pickle should NOT taste bitter.
  • Heat the peanut oil in pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add the asafetida and turn off the heat. Allow the seasoning to cool completely before adding it to the prepared pickle and mix well. The Pickle is now ready to be relished.

  • Make sure all the utensils, jars, ladles and knives are thoroughly washed, wiped and dried. 
  • The bottle that is used for pickling should be washed with hot water and dried in the sun before use. Alternatively, the jar can be microwaved for 30 seconds to ensure complete dryness.
  • Avoid using your hands to mix the pickle. Unless you want a spoilt pickle.
  • The quantity of limes will vary depending on the size and the juice content. You could use less than the number of limes mentioned in the ingredients.
  • The Kashmiri red chili powder gives the pickle and a rich red color without making it too spicy. If you prefer you pickle extra hot, then increase the quantity of the red chili powder by a tbsp.
  • I have used powdered sea salt. The quantity of the salt may vary if you are using rock salt.
  • Make sure the seasoning is completely cool before adding it to the pickle. Otherwise, the pickle will develop an odd odor.


  1. Aww.. We missed you but glad your family is doing better now Nandita :) that is a great looking pickle, texture, colour and everything! Love the lemons photograph :)

  2. lovely color...Good to have you back!

  3. Hey missed you around Nandita! Glad u r back. The pictures are lovely as usual. The first one in particular :) the jute underneath is adding a rustic charm.

  4. Looks delicious! nice post so much colorful lucky to found it on your blog.. :)

  5. thank u ... my name is also nandita and am from mysore-bangalore. Where are u from?

  6. Hi! I've been following your weblog for some time noww and
    finally got the bravery to go ahea and give you a shout out from Dallas Tx!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the good job!


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