Help me make dried limes for Persian/Iranian cooking at home.
August 18, 2009 8:56 AM   Subscribe

How can I make dried limes at home for Persian/Iranian cooking?

I enjoyed authentic Persian cuisine over the weekend, and found its flavors slyly seductive. Even though the dishes contained ingredients familiar to anyone who's cooked Lebanese, Turkish, or Indian cuisines (and probably many other "Middle Eastern" foods), these flavor combinations seemed novel and exciting (and occasionally a little challenging).

One standout ingredient that I don't recall seeing in the markets I frequent here in Chicago: dried limes. I greedily hoarded the pieces in my Qormeh sabzi!

In my neighborhood, "Persian" limes go as cheap as 10 for a dollar, so rather than buying dried ones from the internet or trekking all over town to find them in a market, I thought I'd try to dry my own. This way I'd have a nice supply and could experiment incorporating them into Persian dishes, as well as my own improvised dishes.

The one recipe I found says to boil limes (it doesn't specify whole or cut) in salted water for 5 minutes, then sun-dry. While this sounds great for the arid parts of Iran, this won't probably work well in humid, late-summer Chicago--I worry they will either mold or be set upon by insects before dehydration occurs.

Anyone out there have a technique the home cook can use (without fancy equipment) to make dried limes suitable for Persian cooking? Can I dry them in a very low (200 degree) oven, for example?

I know I can probably find these things somewhere in Chicago but I consider myself a capable DIY cook even for "exotic" foods--I find it more fun and satisfying.

Any other tips, tricks, or excellent web resources for Persian/Iranian cooking for the (Midwestern) American cook welcomed too.
posted by ViolaGrinder to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This is a bit of a stretch, but I believe I have seen a Mediterranean recipe for dried lemons which consisted of cutting them up and packing them in salt for a couple of weeks. Here's something like what I remember. Should work with limes, too.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:41 AM on August 18, 2009

My mother's side of the family is Iranian and big-time cook-it-from-scratch people. I don't think any of them have felt the need to dry their own limes though. You shouldn't have much trouble finding them in middle eastern markets.

If you want to make your own, I'd try them in a closed oven with the light on for heat. I think 200 degrees would be too warm.
posted by Good Brain at 9:51 AM on August 18, 2009

Preserved lemons and dried limes are like (preserved) apples and (dried) oranges -- totally different methods of preserving. One's basically a pickle, and the other is simply dehydrated.

I agree that sun-drying probably isn't a good idea in Chicago. I think the oven is definitely a good choice, if you don't have access to a dehydrator. It works with tomatoes, anyway. I wouldn't go up to 200, though. If you have an oven with a pilot light, leave them in there overnight and see how dry they get. Maybe go up to 150 or 175. Here's a site that says you're going for 'dried and hollow.'
posted by mudpuppie at 9:54 AM on August 18, 2009

Squeeze out the juice for another use, scrape out all the pith, before you dehydrate them. That stuff isn't going to taste very good. Most citrus preserving recipes I've looked at want only the zest.

Alton Brown would say strap a bunch of box fans together with bungee cords and use that as a super-dehydrator.

Seconding mudpuppie---200 degrees seems too hot. You will cook them.

If you're not in a hurry, you could just prep them (juice, de-pulp, de-pith) and hang them in some cheese cloth somewhere breezy. Might smell nice.
posted by Darth Fedor at 10:16 AM on August 18, 2009

Ah, OK. I had an entirely different preparation in mind (obviously). Are the dried limes slices (with internal stuff) or just the rind?
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:19 AM on August 18, 2009

Response by poster: I believe the Persian limes I want to make are dried whole. A picture of these limes appears on this website (scroll down to the entry for dried limes).
posted by ViolaGrinder at 10:33 AM on August 18, 2009

I propose that some experimentation is in order, since you can get the limes 10 for a buck. After thinking about it more, sun drying might actually be possible, even in humid Chicago, since the limes will remain whole. If they were cut, they'd definitely mold. But whole? They might not. Just make sure there's good air circulation around them. Put them on a rack instead of on a solid surface, and rotate them daily to make sure all sides are exposed to air. To keep insects away, I'd cover the limes with yet another rack covered in cheesecloth. (That way the cheesecloth wouldn't come in direct contact with the limes, which would hold moisture up against them.) Don't leave them out in the rain, obviously. A sunny window might work just as well as an outdoor space.

If it were me, I'd try the air-dry method AND the oven method. I mean, can't hurt, right?
posted by mudpuppie at 10:42 AM on August 18, 2009

Perhaps consider the Blowhard 4000?
posted by Citrus at 10:44 AM on August 18, 2009

Darth Fedor, the dried limes ViolaGrinder is referring to are dried whole. They are sour, earthy, and delicious.
posted by Good Brain at 11:10 AM on August 18, 2009

Wow. I have no problem drying citrus rind, even in the humid New England summers, but whole fruit seems -- daunting. I agree with mudpuppie that experimentation is in order. It seems like a low oven might work -- but the whole fruit would tend to broil rather than dry, I'd think. Maybe pierce them and let them drain a bit before trying to dry?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:13 AM on August 18, 2009

In case you want to buy ready made, which is what I would recommend, try Pars grocery in Andersonville, 5260 N Clark St (between Berwyn Ave & Farragut Ave) Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 769-6635. It's a cool place.
posted by agent99 at 12:16 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've dried limes to cook with. Never knew they were used in Persian cuisine. Experimentation is in order.

I had extra limes I wasn't going to use, so I sliced them and put them in the dehydrator. I do this with most things that I think might go bad. Later I stew them.
Works for me.

So if I were trying this and didn't have a dehydrator, I would try a double pronged approach.
Whole - I would place them on an elevated rack in front of a fan. Citrus have an amazing capacity for losing water without going bad. If you keep the surface dry and touching nothing but a rack, it should not mold. I think you could do whole in a dehydrator.

Sliced - I would try Alton's method for making jerky. Get some clean (non-fiberglass) air filters. Lay slices in between them and bungee cord them together onto the front of a fan. Let it run for a few days. My oven doesn't have a pilot light and the internal light isn't hot enough to dry a thing. I'm not sure you could use the air filter method with whole fruit without losing many to mold.

I'd love to hear your result.
posted by Seamus at 2:02 PM on August 18, 2009

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