My Indian Gran would potter around her daughter’s house in upstate New York, moving this large clear glass jar of a strange yellow lemony substance from room to room, seeking the sunniest window in the house. Subsequently her daughter, my dear mother-in-law, would produce an array of astonishing dishes for our family meals, with flavors I had never experienced and found absolutely intriguing. As a child from mid-Western American families with a healthy dose of Dutch and English as well as strong French cooking traditions, I was comfortable with a meld of savory, mildly spicy and sweet flavors, but this was something new. And it was profoundly delicious.
My Gran, also called Lady Dhanvanthi Handoo Rama Rau, the woman who wished me seven sons upon my marriage to her grandson, Josh, was the founder and President of Planned Parenthood of India and the former President of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Her daughter, Santha Rama Rau, was my mother-in-law and introduced me to a wealth of cooking knowledge, from how to prepare langoustines and a proper salmon poaching broth to the world of Indian spices. My sister-in-law Arabella continues the tradition of great cooks and is passing on her own inspired and unique traditions, often in the form of her seasonal hostess menus. You will count yourself fortunate to be invited, like, crazy lucky!
These are Bearss limes from Co-op members Mary and Mark, aromatic, tender and flavorful, grown in Nichols Canyon. The Co-op prepared them by simply scrubbing them thrice – three times!, cutting them partially open, and packing and layering them with kosher salt in jars, applying pressure to exude the juices. The process takes about six weeks, but these were a full 9 weeks. Once preserved, rinse the citrus well, as it is very salty. Some cooks discard the pith and only use the peel, other cooks use the whole thing, rinsed well. This is an intensely salty condiment, so use sparingly. My mother likes to add finely diced lemon pickle to ground chickpeas, for a sparkling hummous. My go-to is to add the lemon pickles to sautéed chicken and tomatoes and let it stew, posted previously here as Moroccan Chicken. These can also be added to fish stews and braises, rice dishes, pilafs, and salads but take care not to add extra salt.