Punjab Pickled Limes

Kate Punshon - Thursday, June 30, 2016

These pickled limes are hot and salty and sweet and sour all in one mouthful. Easy to prepare, the limes are pickled over two days, but don't dismay, the limes are soaking either in water or salt for most of this time. The final finishing only takes about 60 minutes.Originating from the North Indian Punjab region, noted for its pallows, biryani, qorma (korma), haleem and nihari these home preserved pickled limes are a wonderful addition to your next curry night.

Preparation time: 60 minutes + 2 separate preparations which require soaking overnight
Cooking time: 1.5 hrs
Quantity; 3 x 400 ml jars


Sterilise sealable glass jars and lids.
Day 1: Wash and soak limes overnight
Day 2: Layer sliced limes with salt and leave to stand overnight.

Ingredient list

1 kg un-waxed limes
75 g preserving salt
6 green cardamom pods – crushed gently to release the seeds within
6 whole cloves
I tsp cumin seeds
4 fresh chilles, seeded and sliced
5 cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely shredded
450 g white sugar


Day 1

  1. Gently wash each lime to remove any dirt, dust or chemicals. 
  2. Place limes in a large bowl, cover with cold water and soak for 8 hours or preferably overnight.
Day 2
  1. Next day drain the limes and discard the water. Depending on the size of the limes prepare in one of the following ways.
  2. If the limes are small, slice approximately into 5 mm or ¼ inch  rounds, moving from one end to the other.
  3. If the limes are larger, slice the lime in half longways first, and then starting at one end and moving progressively to the other end, slice approximately into 5 mm or 1/4 inch  slices.
  4.  Place a layer of  lime slices in a large bowl, sprinkle with some salt, place another layer of limes on top and sprinkle with salt. Continue in this manner until all the limes and salt have been used, making sure the final layer is the salt..
  5. Cover with cling wrap or a tea towel and leave to stand for another 8 hours or or preferably overnight.
Day 3

  1. The next day, place a bowl under a colander; drain the limes and catch the lime juice is the bowl.
  2. Crush the cardamom and cumin seeds together
  3. In a large pan add the drained lime juice, crushed  seed mixture, sliced chili, shredded ginger, cloves and sugar.
  4. Bring to gentle boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Turn down and simmer for approximately 2 minutes to commence the flavour extraction from the spices. Then allow the syrup to cool. Remove the clove.
  6. In a large bowl gently mix the drained sliced limes and the cool syrup together so that each lime slice is completely covered in the syrup.
  7. Place the sliced limes into warm sterilised dry sealable jars, Use a funnel and ladle and fill to approximately 2.5cm (I inch) from the top of the bottle and seal.
  8. Label and store in a cool dark place in the kitchen or pantry.
  9. Allow the pickled limes to mature for 4 weeks before eating. Use within a year.


  1. Use un-waxed limes or if they are unavailable scrub  waxed limes gently to remove the wax. The wax will be unpleasant to eat and will affect the final quality of the pickled limes
  2. Salting the limes will soften the rind and intensity the flavour'
  3. Use pickling salt, not table salt , when making pickles and preserves. Table salt contains stabilisers and anti-caking agents and often iodide which forms a whitish haze and sediment. These additives and in particular iodine can affect the appearance and taste of pickles and preserves during the maturation and storage period. The ingestion of a cocktail of anti-caking chemicals such as calcium silicate, sodium silicoaluminate, tricalcium phosphate, magnesium carbonate, silicon dioxide and yellow prussate of soda, is also unnecessary.
  4.  I recommend removing the clove from the cooled aromatic sugar syrup before bottling. The clove flavour will continue to develop in the pickle and many become over powering.
  5. Serve the pickled limes either directly  from the jar or place  some slices in a small dish as part of the curry accompaniments.

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