July 15, 2020

Civil War Era Pickled Limes Recipe like in Little Women

'In debt, Amy; what do you mean?' and Meg looked sober.

'Why, I owe at least a dozen pickled limes, and I can't pay them, you know, till I have money, for Marmee forbid my having anything charged at the shop.'

'Tell me all about it. Are limes the fashion now? It used to be pricking bits of rubber to make balls;' and Meg tried to keep her countenance, Amy looked so grave and important.

'Why, you see, the girls are always buying them, and unless you want to be thought mean, you must do it too. It's nothing but limes now, for everyone is sucking them in their desks in school-time, and trading them off for pencils, bead-rings, paper dolls, or something else, at recess. If one girl likes another, she gives her a lime; if she's mad with her, she eats one before her face, and don't offer even a suck. They treat by turns; and I've had ever so many, but haven't returned them, and I ought, for they are debts of honour, you know.' -Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

I have been wanting to make these since I first read Little Women so I am very excited to share this recipe. It made no sense to me. The kids I knew hated limes. Why would anyone want to eat these? Was it a dare? Were they showing how tough they were by consuming them? I really didn't know then and still didn't know until now.

They're actually not bad! They're salty and sour and a bit tangy. I read of children in the 1860s eating them in conjunction with sweet candy. Other taste testers said they would go good with nuts and beer.

I cooked the vinegar to save time and added a bit of water to reduce the bite. I also was stuck using prepared ingredients as some of the fresh or whole spices were nowhere to be found. Feel free to use the fresh and whole kind if you can find them right now. The recipe is left open so you can pickle as many or few limes as you want. The spices should make up about 1/16 of the mixture.


Civil War Era Pickled Limes Recipe


- Limes
- Salt
-50% Vinegar to 50% Water Mixture
- Garlic, chopped
- Mustard Seed
- Cayenne Pepper
- Horseradish (shredded)


Quarter limes, leaving a bit so the 4 pieces stay connected. Place in a sanitized jar.

Sprinkle the limes with the salt, cover, and sit in a sunny spot until the rinds change colors (can be as little as 3 hours or take up to a week depending on sunlight.) Shake every day to coat the limes in juice.

Boil enough vinegar and water mixture to cover the limes.

Mix the Garlic, Mustard Seed, Cayenne Pepper and Horseradish together.

In a sanitized jar, add the limes and seasonings in alternating layers.

Carefully pour the vinegar over the limes. Let cool then cover and store in the fridge until the juice thickens.


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