I’ve caused conniptions in Chinese, Lebanese, Laotian, Greek, Albanian, Mexican and probably several other grandmothers. It’s time for some Vietnamese ones.
No doubt this recipe is not authentic, and I would love anyone who has a real Vietnamese grandmother to share the authentic version. But one of the nice things about multicultural Australia is the cross fertilization of ideas, in food as in everything else.
I discovered this by looking at limes falling off the tree and a shelf full of lime pickles and lime cordial, and wondering how limes would go salted and preserved the same way I preserve lemons – which is a recipe of North African or Middle Eastern provenance I think. Preserved lemons are a kitchen staple for me, finely chopped and added to couscous as a side dish, or to broad beans or tagines or pasta sauce or fish stew or mushrooms on toast or any number of dishes that need that little salty sweet sour note. Preserved limes are more limited in cooking – if I have preserved lemons I usually prefer them.
Except for this.
A little bit of salted lime in a glass, topped up with water or ideally soda water. I like it unsweetened, but you can add a little sugar if you like. After a session of mowing, it’s the best drink.
My limes are just coming into season which is handy, because this one is the last of last year’s jars.
Sterilize your jars (and their lids) by boiling for ten minutes or pressure cooking for five. This recipe will make about 4 medium jars.
Measure out 250 grams of salt.
Chop 16 limes into quarters. Put them in a big bowl, sprinkling them as you go with the salt. Massage in.
Pack the lime pieces into your jars, pressing down to really pack them in.
Pour the juice left in the bowl evenly into the jars. You will be left with some undisolved salt in the bottom of the bowl. Juice 2 or 3 more limes and try to dissolve the salt in the juice. Top up the jars so they are quite full and the limes are covered. Discard any salt that is left.
Wipe the neck of the jar with a clean cloth dipped in boiled water and seal with a sterilized lid. Store in a cool spot for at least a month before using, better two months. They will last for years on the shelf, becoming salt candied and jelly-like. Once a jar is opened it is better kept in the fridge.
To serve, finely slice or just squash a segment of lime and put it in a glass. Top up with water or soda water and ice and add sugar (or not) to taste.