Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Great Pickled Limes Picnic of 2020

 Well then.

I've gotten a few comments recently asking how my pickled limes experiment ended, and I did make sure to carefully document results! But between *waves hands* the world and computer issues my inclination to write about pickled limes on the internet took a bit of a hit. And things on the world front haven't really improved, but my computer issues have been resolved! So no promises I'll post with any frequency, but I think I can promise I will post at least sporadically.

Anyways, on to the main event: how did the pickled limes turn out?

a white porcelain plate with blue floral decoration. Quartered chunks of brined limes are piled on top of it.

When I envisioned opening the limes and trying them out, I had grand visions of discovering a long-forgotten delightful snack...


But I am sorry to say that they ended up aligning more with the historical sources deriding them as an "acquired taste" only adopted by Bostonians.


That is overreacting slightly - they weren't all terrible. And there were still some decided differences in how they tasted! Science is cool, guys.

To help with the tasting portion of this project* I had the help of an esteemed panel of judges. We wore masks except while actually tasting, and stayed outside with ample space between our picnic blankets. Luckily we had a truly fantastic early October, so the weather was worth enjoying!

Let's dive in:

Our Least Favorite: Plain Brined

a single lime cut in half on a white and blue plate

The plain brined limes surprisingly didn't smell like salt! They smelled...sort of floral?

From the panel:

"It smells like the toilet bowls in the Old Town Hall"

"It smells like 1950s chemical cleaner"

The taste was more salty, as I would expect given they'd been brined in salt water. I was expecting salt and sourness, but it actually wasn't sour at all. It tasted salty and organic - a little floral and musky.

The panel was more positive than I was, actually:

"I'm not hating it."

"Once you get past the initial salty awfulness it's ok"

"It has a musky floralness"

Runner Up: Spiced Vinegar

close up of a lime cut in half on a blue and white plate. the lime is slightly browner than the last batch.

This was my favorite of the bunch, because the punch of the vinegar overpowered everything else. I like vinegar! I do think if I ever tried this again I would use more spices though.

The panel was more mixed:

"That one hits you hard"

"I don't taste any lime whatsoever"

"No toilet here!"

"The peel is pretty nice"

The Winner: Sweet Vinegar

a lime cut in half, a bit desiccated-looking, on the same white and blue plate

3 slices of desiccated lime on the white and blue plate

I expected to like this one the best but in the end I think I liked it without the sugar. 

This one got the panel's vote though:

"This one is actually quite good"

"It's different, I don't know that I like it?"

"It's not bad!"

a hand pinching a quarter lime slice in the foreground with a picnic basket and jars of limes in the background

So there you have it! I am calling this a successful experiment, because now I have tried them. Would I make them again? Probably the sweet vinegar batch, with more spices. And I'd probably serve them with something. I used the same recipe (originally from an 1869 fruit pickling book) that I used for the sweet vinegar limes to pickle peaches over the summer, and those were delicious! Especially with manchego cheese and crusty bread.

When limes are next in season, I may try again with slightly different ratios (and try a batch where I pickle them in vinegar right away, instead of brining them first). But we'll see - for now, I think my appetite for pickled limes is satiated.

top-down view of an open jar in the grass with 2 limes floating in salted water

*Note: the salt-packed limes didn't make it to tasting. I ended up with something growing in there and it wasn't worth giving my friends botulism in the middle of a pandemic :(


  1. Hahaha, I'd forgotten some of those comments. :) It was a great experiment. Thanks for sharing it!

    'Esteemed panelist' ;)

  2. I just discovered this blog and I'm absolutely delighted!

  3. Oh, neat! Was sure hoping that you would report on the results, and now we know. Somehow I see the spicy vinegary ones all chopped up and used as a sort of salsa, but perhaps it's not that kind of flavor.

    A worthy experiment.

    Very best,

    Natalie in KY

    1. I could see it being a nice garnish on something! Maybe with mango and grilled meat? Definitely worth experimenting :)