Despite the cold threatening to make a dreaded comeback every once in a while, it is perhaps official after Basant Panchami that warmer climes are round the corner. If you are a summer person, just like me, it is definitely a time to jump with joy. I am not going to get into a debate over what is better – summer or winter, because that is not what this post is about.
I would like to share with you a really simple, no-fire recipe for this awesome lemon crush that I learnt from my grandmom, thanks to my grandfather’s green fingers. So Nanaji was really fond of gardening and I don’t remember any time when the kitchen garden was not lush with ladyfinger, papaya, green chillies, mint, coriander, tomatoes, brinjals, lemons and even pumpkins at times. It is from him that I inherited the love of growing fresh vegetables, and dare I say, a knack too.
At present, I have two lemon trees in the kitchen garden that seem to always be laden with fruit (touchwood!) – so much so that often I am distributing most of it to friends and family. But this season, I decided to preserve some of this goodness in a crush and a pickle that my nani used to make. Her basic philosophy was perhaps making the most of the good thing – so neither the juice, nor the rind of the precious lemons from the garden would go waste. She would use the juice to make a crush that can be stored in the refrigerator as a syrup (and can be enjoyed till at least two months after you have made it) and she would use the peels or rind to make a tangy pickle that tastes yum with almost everything but it is my favourite accompaniment with makki ki roti and moong dal khichdi. These recipes are just so easy to make – and you will need just an hour to put everything together.
Bring on the lemons!
- Lemon Crush:
- A 500-ml glass bottle
- 250gms sugar
- 1/4 tsp asafoetida or heeng
- 1/2 tsp roasted cumin or jeera – coarsely ground
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1-inch stick of cinnamon
- 250ml lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp lemon rind
Method: Before you begin putting everything together, make sure the glass bottle is completely clean and dry. Put the sugar, heeng, jeera, cinnamon powder and stick into the glass bottle and give it a good shake. Slowly pour the lemon juice into the bottle. Top off with the lemon rinds. Seal the bottle tightly. Shake gently and keep in the sun. This syrup ‘cures’ or ‘cooks’ in the sun. You will notice how the sugar begins to slowly melt in the sun. It may not melt fully and some sediment will be there – that’s fine. Just give it a good shake before you mix it with water to make the crush. After you put it in the sun daily for at least 4-5days, your crush is ready to enjoy. I don’t like to take chances and store this crush in the refrigerator.
- Lemon Pickle:
- 2 100gm glass jars
- Lemon peels – cut into thin slivers
- 1 tsp asafoetida or heeng
- 1 tsp roasted caraway or ajwain – coarsely ground
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- salt to taste – usually 2 tsp per jar
- 1/2 tsp dried ginger powder or saunth
Method: Combine the dry masala in a clean and dry vessel. Incorporate the lemon peels cut into slivers with this dry masala mixture. Divide into the two glass jars and cover tightly. The logic behind doing this – putting it in two glass jars is to minimise the risk of spoilage because we aren’t adding any artificial preservatives or colour. But that is the best bit about this five-minute pickle. Also, take care to always use only a dry spoon to take the pickle out of the jar. Leave both the jars to cure in the sun for at least 4-5 days before you taste the pickle. You will be able to tell that the pickle is ready when the rinds leave a considerable amount of juice. Enjoy!
Text and images by Aarti Kapur Singh