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How to Make Lime Pickles - (Achar Limau or Achar Buah)


I just learned how to make lime pickles. I simply love it. Who has tasted it would have loved it too. I have been trying to learn how to make lime pickles and finally I figured out the perfect recipe to make this delicious pickles.

I went to a wedding recently. The set up was in a typical Malay village, next to a rice field in Kedah. The food presented to the guests was simple but... the taste! Each dish, including the rice, even though was not as luxurious like at other wedding receptions that I had been to, was truly exquisite. 

Lime pickles (achar buah)
Achar Limau or Achar Buah (Lime Pickles) The large quantity in the tray is on the buffet table at the wedding reception.

The winner had to be the lime pickles (achar) which was laid out in the buffet together with beef curry, spicy chicken and also cucumber and pineapple salad. So, let's go behind the scene and steal a look at how to make lime pickles.

Unashamedly, I went to the kitchen to look at the way they were prepared. The ladies were busy cutting up more vegetables for the salad. The lime pickles was already prepared a day before to allow all the flavors to diffuse.

So, I asked some of the ladies: how did they made the achar? They did not give me full instructions but I had some ideas on what to do. Upon coming home, I tried to "reverse engineer" the secret recipe myself.

Normally, being dry, lime pickles (achar limau or achar buah) hardly has any sauce, but this one has runny liquid gravy which is truly lips-smacking. I think the main character that gives this achar a special twist is the addition of dried prunes.

After making this lime pickles (achar), pour the hot mix into a sterilized jar. It can keep up to a month. Longer if stored in the refrigerator.

This pickles is also popular during the sahur in Ramadhan, because after a few weeks of fasting, most of the people who fast begin to lose their appetite for the sahur. The sweet, sour and spicy taste will bring back the urge to eat.

Busy ladies at the kenduri
Busy ladies in the kitchen:
Look at the amount of fresh vegetables being peeled and sliced manually.

There are many ingredients involved and the process of how to make lime pickles is also tedious. However, since this is truly a mouth watering appetizer, who is complaining?

Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 cups white vinegar (with 5% acetic acid)
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil
  • 6 tbs molasses or brown sugar (adjust to suit your taste)
  • Salt to taste (add at the end because all the preserved fruits already have salt and sugar in them)
  • 4 red chilies (cut lengthwise)
  • 2 inches of ginger (julienned into thin strips)
  • 1 pc cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp cloves

Preserved ready-made fruits:

  • 15 Arabian/Californian dates (remove the stones and tear into strips)
  • 100g strips of dried prune (this dried prune, from China, can be bought at any preserved snack vendor, by weight or in small packets)
  • 2 whole plain lime pickles, cut into 8 pieces each (made using the instruction as lemon pickle by substituting lemons with limes). You can also buy ready made plain lime pickles at the wet market or Indian grocery stores).
  • 100 g peanuts (roasted and remove soft membrane).
  • Toasted sesame seed (optional).

Spices to be roasted:

  • 12 pieces of large sized dried chilies (after roasting the dried chilies, they are processed finely to a paste).
    Note: Small sized dried chilies are hotter than the large ones. Judge the quantity needed accordingly.
  • 12 cloves of garlic, peeled and half lengthwise.
  • 12 pieces of shallots, peeled and quartered.
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds.

Method:

  • Dry roast spices in a hot frying pan or a wok.
  • Remove the roasted spices and process finely the dried chilies to a paste.
  • Set other roasted ingredients aside.
  • Heat oil in a saucepan.
  • Add in the chili paste, wait around 5 minutes until the chilies are well cooked and the oil separates.
  • Pour in vinegar. Stir well.
  • Add in ginger, cinnamon stick, cloves, red chilies. Wait until the ginger and chilies wilt in the heat.
  • Add in all the roasted spices, peanuts and sesame seeds if using.
  • Add in all preserved ready made fruits.
  • Simmer with slow fire for at least 20 minutes, add a cup water if the mixture is getting dry.
  • Cook until the consistency is only slightly thick.
  • Add the molasses/sugar and also salt to taste. You probably want to use less sugar/molasses if you do not fancy sweeter pickles.
  • Serve cold or store in a jar.

The lime pickles will keep without refrigeration. However, it is better if kept in the fridge for longer shelf life. Now that you have learned how to make lime pickles, what are you waiting for? Try it yourself!

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