Winter in the Caribbean is lush with limes, bitter oranges, mandarins, carambola (star fruit) and a host of other organic fruit and vegetables. This recipe turns those bitter oranges into a condiment fit for avocado dishes, a compound butter for chicken and fish, salad dressings, fragrant rice dishes and more. When the price for citrus in local markets soars, these pickled citrus are just the ticket and so easy to make with sea salt, garlic, chili, and assorted spices. Pureed or smashed into a paste, these pickled citrus are very much like yuzu kosho (Japanese condiment made with orange citrus shaped like a hand) at pennies of the cost.
Every island in the Caribbean has bitter orange trees thanks to the Spanish conquistadors. Unable to grow Seville oranges in the Caribbees, Curaçao in particular, the Spanish conquistadors ended up with these very bitter little oranges which are the basis of Curaçao liqueur also known as Triple-Sec. They’re a good substitute for lemons and limes in a pinch but much better as a fermented pickle or made into liqueur.
This recipe process works well with limes, lemons or small tangerines. If you have a lime or lemon tree in your backyard, try this pickle. Select ripe fruit without blemishes. You’ll need 3 limes per half-pint jar plus 1 lime per jar for juice. Scrub the skins clean and rinse well. Dry them in the sun or with a clean dry kitchen cloth. It is important to keep water out of this fermentation process. To get the most juice out of your limes, pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds and roll them on your cutting board until they feel a bit softer. Slice them on a plate to catch all the juice.
If you live in a country where winters are dark and gloomy, leave your jars on top of a refrigerator or hot water heater. If you have lots of sunny days set the jars in a window that gets several hours of direct sun each day. Don’t be alarmed if the lid bulges during the fermentation process. The amount of salt and acid creates some gas but no harmful bacteria.
Salt Cure Ingredients for 4 Half-Pints of Limes:
1 cup course sea salt or kosher salt (Morton canning salt will also work)
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- 1 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds
- 2 tsp Madras Curry Powder (optional)
Wash 4 half-pint jars in warm sudsy water and sterilize in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and dry in the sun or set them on a towel in a baking pan and place in a warm oven on the lowest temperature until dry.
- Slice off the blossom and stem end of each lime and slice each lime from top to bottom into quarters, then each quarter into 2 or three pieces.
- Layer lime pieces into jars sprinkling salt cure liberally over each layer. Add juice of one lime (plus collected juice from slicing) to each jar.
- Cover jars with double thickness of plastic wrap and screw on lids finger tight so jars do not leak when shaken.
- Shake jars to distribute salt cure and juice. Set in direct sunlight for 3 weeks and shake jars each day.
- Check periodically for texture and taste. They should be soft, fragrant and pleasantly salty with lime flavor predominately.
- Remove plastic wrap, wipe rims of jars and replace lids. Store in refrigerator up to a year.
Salt Pickled tangerines with star anise. Wonderful in mango chutney, red pepper chutney, add to aioli for yam fries, or coconut lamb curry.
- Salt Pickled tangerine with fennel makes a delicious compound butter for beef.
- To make a sweet pickled lemon add equal parts of sugar and salt with bay leaves and peppercorns. Delicious in quinoa.