In 2017, I participated in a “Food in Jars” challenge that was managed by cookbook author and food blogger, Marisa McClellan. I learned a lot and made some fun things, and did a monthly blog post along the way (you can find them here.)
I think my favorite thing I learned how to make is salt-preserved limes. Prior to the challenge, I actually had never heard of them, and honestly they sounded weird to me and I wasn’t sure what we would use them for. In the spirit of the challenge though, I did a pint of key limes and a pint of meyer lemons in February 2017.
We LOVED them. The limes more so than the lemons, but both are delicious. I only made a pint of each to start out, and by July 2017 I made a full quart of (regular) limes.
This week, it was time to make another quart. Did I mention we love these things?
I make mine pretty much like Marisa does over on Food in Jars, with a few small adjustments.
First, I put the limes in a big bowl with filtered water and about 1/8 cup of distilled white vinegar and let them soak. This helps wash off / filter out any pesticides or other chemicals that may be on the fruit, and anything else you don’t want in your jar (at least I hope it does.)
While the limes are soaking, I sterilize my quart jar (I like to use a wide-mouth jar for this), my Pickle Pebble, and my plastic jar lid. I recently purchased these Pickle Pebbles and think they are great! You have to be careful what you use to weight things like this down, especially with acidic things like citrus – you don’t want to leech any chemicals into what you are making by using the wrong material to weight something down. These Pickle Pebbles are made with the same glass as mason jars, so no chemicals to leech, and they work great!
After the limes are done soaking. I drain the water/vinegar off and give them a rinse with plain water, and then drain again.
Then I cut all of the limes and start layering them in the sterilized quart jar. I use regular limes, and this time when I did it, the limes were on the small-ish size, and I cut each one into 6 slices.
As I get a layer of lime slices in the jar, I put some kosher salt over them. You want to be generous with the salt, as that is what makes this process work – but you also don’t want to kill it. For the full quart I probably used 1/2 cup of kosher salt total? Somewhere around there. (HA!)
As you start layering the lime slices and salt, you want to smash the limes down with something (back of a wooden spoon, something like that), and try to distribute the salt. They will start making their own juice, with the goal being when you get to the top of the jar there will be enough juice made to cover the limes completely. (If there isn’t, you can add bottled lime juice.) This time, I didn’t have to do that – but I have had to in past batches. It just depends on your limes I guess.
Anyway, when the jar is full and you have smashed the limes, stirred them around (shaking the jar as you go also works well,) make sure they are all covered in juice and push the Pickle Pebble down on the top to weight it down. Put the lid on, stick the jar on a small plate on the counter, and wait!
You want to check it every 5-6 days and it doesn’t hurt to shake the jar etc. to keep that salt distributing. Take the Pickle Pebble (or whatever weight you use) out and then do this. Replace weight when done. Be careful that your hands and any utensils you use during this process are clean.
It seems to take about a month for them to be done, you can tell because they will change color and look kind of milky/cloudy and a different color green than when they are fresh. When they are done, put them in the fridge. They will stay fine in the refrigerator for up to a year or so, if they last that long!
We primarily use them in drinks, they make the very best margarita you will ever have. I promise! We also use them in cooking, they are amazing in guacamole. A word of caution: they end up being really salty and briny when they are done, so a little bit goes a long way (but we use a whole slice per margarita.)
Food in Jars also has a great compilation of other ways you can use your salt-preserved citrus. It is a great time of year to get a jar of these going, since lime is such a good flavor on so many grilled things in the summer etc. I hope you enjoy!