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Retro-style Indian “lime pickles.”

August 19, 2014

Retro-style Indian lime pickle recipe from a McCall's cookbook supplement from the 60's/70's.

Retro-style? Salad oil? Lime pickles? What the hell is this?” That’s probably what you’re thinking reading this recipe. And I don’t blame you, really. But you should get the backstory before you think I’m totally insane.

Because lime pickles are totally a thing, and this is indeed a vintage- or “retro”- recipe.

A few months ago on a really rainy, chilly, gross Friday night, Jay & I stopped in to one of my favorite thrift stores. There wasn’t much to get. I was a little disappointed. Until he found a stack of 1960’s/1970’s McCall’s magazine cookbook supplements! SCORE!

Vintage recipe for Indian lime pickles from a vintage McCall's magazine.

Despite being a little peeved that they put the price stickers right on the front covers(!), they were in amazing shape. And full of amazing recipes & recipe ideas… and a few not-so-amazing ones (let’s all agree to skip the asparagus in aspic or tomato-chicken gelatin mousse from the “Salads & Salad Dressings” issue, k?).

I flipped through each of them a few times since then, but on another rainy day recently I really sat down & read them. And the issue pictured above, the “McCall’s Worldwide Cooking” issue, had a few things that caught my eye.

Retro-style Indian lime pickle recipe from a McCall's cookbook supplement from the 60's/70's.

Lime pickles. Hmm. Sounds intriguing, no?

I looked them up and found out that, like preserved lemons, preserved limes are quite a popular thing. Blame it on the fact I don’t like Indian food (sorry) but I really had no idea. I do now.

In the 1800s and early 1900s, pickled limes were exported from the West Indies to areas in the Northeastern United States.[1] In the mid-1800s, pickled limes were in demand in New York, and by the late 1800s they were mostly exported to Boston.[1] During this time period, stores would display them in glass jars atop counters and sell them by the piece.[1] Some customers purchased entire barrels of them at a time.[1]

During the mid 1800s, pickled key limes were exported from Florida to Boston.[2]

-source

Apparently, they’re also mentioned in Little Women; however that version is in vinegar, not oil like these. Hmm. Interesting.

You could also use olive oil & whole chilies, I suppose- this recipe I found on the internet looks beautiful. There are tons of ways to make these, from sliced & salted just like preserved lemons, to being plopped in a vinegar solution & back to oil.

Retro-style Indian lime pickle recipe from a McCall's cookbook supplement from the 60's/70's.

I only had three limes so I halved the recipe and I actually ended up with an 8-oz. jar and a 4-oz. jar. I also cut my limes a little off- but hey, nobody’s perfect. I also changed the recipe a bit from the original (but not much). There’s room for substitutions, as always, so if you want to add cumin or coriander or whatever, feel free to do so. I added turmeric myself.

It also occurred to me that I don’t use limes nearly enough. They’re delicious. Licking the lime juice off my fingers with some salt & cayenne… yum.

Retro-style Indian lime pickle recipe from a McCall's cookbook supplement from the 60's/70's.

INDIAN LIME PICKLES (adapted from a vintage McCall’s magazine supplement called “Worldwide Cooking”)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. limes (about 5 or 6)
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 cup salad oil (canola or vegetable)

Directions:

  1. Wash limes; dry them. Then slice crosswise into 1/4″-slices and lay in a single layer on a cookie sheet covered in parchment.
  2. Sprinkle limes with dry ingredients. Let stand for one hour.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium saucepan until boiling. Let cool. Pack garlic & limes into hot, sterilized jars. Cover with oil making sure there are no air bubbles. Seal immediately.
  4. Let stand in a warm place for 4 days, then store in the fridge. Serve with Roast Lamb Indienne (or so they say in the cookbook).

Retro-style Indian lime pickle recipe from a McCall's cookbook supplement from the 60's/70's.

It is now my responsibility to tell you the following: THE FDA AND USDA AND ALL THE ‘DA’S’ DO NOT ACCEPT ANY RECIPE THAT INCLUDES OIL AS BEING SAFE FOR CANNING. THE RISK OF BOTULISM & AIRBORNE BACTERIA IS FAR TOO HIGH, AND THEY WILL ALL TELL YOU TO STAY FAR AWAY FROM SUCH THINGS. THERE IS NO SAFE WAY TO CAN ANYTHING TO BE SHELF-STABLE IN ANY KIND OF OIL.

Okay, there. The disclaimer has been stated.

Retro-style Indian lime pickle recipe from a McCall's cookbook supplement from the 60's/70's.

You’re all smart enough to know safe practices when it comes to using oil, so I won’t mother you. All I will say is that for 100’s of years, people have been preserving pickles and eggplant in oil and they’ve (mostly) all survived, or died of unrelated illnesses. Be safe, just don’t be too crazy. Clean your jars, clean your fruits, use clean utensils.

Pickle a lime and be happy.

Retro-style Indian lime pickle recipe from a McCall's cookbook supplement from the 60's/70's.

Suggestions for use: serve as a side dish alongside lamb dishes, use in a Bloody Mary, serve with clams or seafood, serve as a garnish on salads.
Soundtrack: The Clash – “Guns of Brixton”
Sources & credits: knife; Calphalon Contemporary series, plaid tea towel; Ikea, 8-oz. Ball/Kerr® jar; freshpreserving.com.
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  1. As a devoted Little Women” fan, I always wondered about Amy’s pickled limes–were they intact or whole but peeled, were they savory or sweet, how could they not be too messy to carry in a paper bag?

    Your theory that they may have been an imported food makes sense; and yet the March girls lived in genteel poverty–I’m not sure how they could afford imported delicacies. Also, the description in the book does sound as if the limes are intact–Amy is busted with hers, and forced to throw them out the window, two by two. I wonder if they were more like preserved candied ginger–preserved in sugar or honey and then dried just enough to leave the surface a bit dry (so as not to make the bag soggy), yet leave the interior still a bit juicy. Spices such as powdered ginger, cloves, coriander, would have made them quite exotic even if they were preserved locally. I should think smaller ones like Key limes (actually a kind of lemon) could be handled and eaten more easily. I could also envision limes pickled in a sugar syrup like “pickled” peaches–intended primarily as a holiday garnish. But that version would definitely not work as Amy’s treat–too messy. It might well be worth perusing old cookbooks (from 1800’s) to see if they give any clues….

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