The Great Pickling Adventure

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Usually, the hot summer sun in India slows you down… you feel listless and tired. As the mercury rises, the level of activity drops all across the country. But hey – there are some people who become extra active in the summertime: our mothers and grandmothers…. That’s because the harsh sun in the sky and the dry heat all around present a unique once-in-a-year opportunity: Pickling!

In their enthusiasm, these adventurous women experimented with various types of pickles – mango, cucumber, lemon, chilli, cauliflower, carrot, eggplant… the list goes on. And this experimentation wasn’t confined only to fruits and vegetables. In various parts of the country, people also pickled meats and prawns and shrimps and more! In fact, we shared one such recipe earlier – a delectable Mutton Achaar.

The ingredient common to all pickle recipes (especially those originating in North India) is Mustard Oil. There’s a very good reason for this – a reason that our moms and grandmas were well aware of: Mustard Oil has unique preservative properties. It also prevents moulds and pathogens from attacking the pickle and making it go bad. Your pickles remain edible for up to a year because of the Mustard Oil used as the pickling agent.

Some of the experiments with pickling are really interesting. In certain pockets of north India, the preservative properties of Mustard Oil were used to pickle… believe it or not… Mustard! Yes, this is a Mustard Seed Achaar made with Mustard Oil – here’s the recipe.

It’s an amazingly simple recipe. Here are the ingredients that you will require:

  • Mustard Seeds (Rai): 100 grams
  • Mustard Oil: 200 millilitres
  • Mustard Powder: 1 tablespoon
  • Sugar: 100 grams
  • Salt: to taste

Preparation:

Wash the mustard seeds and put them out in the sun to dry. Make sure they are completely dry before you bring them in. However, if you are using hygienically packaged mustard seeds, you don’t need to wash them.

Wash and sterilize a glass or porcelain pickling jar and wipe it dry. Let it dry completely. Once again, make sure it’s completely dry… there should be no droplets of residual moisture.

Method:

In a pan, add the salt, sugar and mustard powder. Pour in around 250 millilitres of water. Place the pan on a Medium flame and bring the contents to a boil. Add the mustard seeds and let the contents simmer for around five minutes or so. Remove from the flame and let the contents cool down to room temperature.

Heat the Mustard Oil in a large pan on Medium heat till the oil reaches its smoking point. Let it cool down. Add the salt-sugar-mustard powder-mustard seeds mixture to the cooled oil. Mix well.

Carefully pour/transfer the contents into the pickling jar that you had sterilized and dried earlier. Cover the mouth of the jar with a clean, dry muslin cloth and tie it firmly with a cord around the neck of the jar. Place the jar in the sun (ideally outdoors in a place like a terrace, a balcony or a window sill). Remember to bring the jar indoors at night to prevent moisture from setting in. Repeat this process for around four to five days.

Your delicious Mustard Seed Achaar is now ready. This pickle should be consumed within a month or so – because some of the water that you used while making it may remain in the seeds. Nevertheless that won’t change how awesome this pickle tastes. Mustard Seeds pickled in Mustard Oil – that’s a double delight!

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Another Pickle from Grandma’s Archives

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In an earlier post, we told you about one of our food writers who was thrilled to find her great grandmother’s diary containing a treasure trove of traditional Indian recipes. Here’s another exciting pickle recipe from that diary – it’s a Mango and Chickpeas Achaar… the way it has traditionally been made… for hundreds of years.

Here are the ingredients that you will require:

  • Raw Mangoes, grated: 200 grams
  • Chickpeas (Kabuli Chana): 100 grams
  • Mustard Oil: 300 millilitres
  • Mustard Seeds (Rai): 1 tablespoon
  • Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds: 1 tablespoon
  • Fenugreek (Methi) Powder: 1 tablespoon
  • Fennel (Saunf) Seeds: 1 tablespoon
  • Nigella (Kalonji) Seeds: 1 teaspoon
  • Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: 1 teaspoon
  • Asafoetida (Heeng): Just a pinch
  • Red Chilli Powder: 1 tablespoon
  • Whole Kashmiri Red Chillies, dry: 12
  • Salt: 1 tablespoon

This recipe produces around 300 grams of pickle. Adjust the ingredients according to your requirements.

Preparation:

Wash and dry the mangoes. Make sure they are completely dry. In India, it is customary to put the mangoes out in the sun to dry. Once the mangoes are dry, grate the mangoes. Throw the seeds away. Do not wash the grated mangoes – just put them out for another round of drying. Do remember, moisture can ruin your pickles, so make sure that you start the process with totally dry grated mangoes.

In the process of grating the mangoes, some juice will come out from the mangoes; strain this juice using a clean cloth, and keep it aside.

Once the grated mango has dried, coat it in turmeric powder and salt; keep aside for around 30 minutes.

Wash the chickpeas and soak them along with the fenugreek seeds in the mango juice that you had kept aside earlier. Leave this overnight. In the meantime, put the grated mangoes coated with turmeric and salt in the refrigerator.

Wash and sterilize a glass or porcelain pickling jar and wipe it dry. Make sure it is completely dry before you use it.

Method:

In a large bowl add the fenugreek powder, mustard seeds, asafoetida, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, red chilli powder and whole Kashmiri red chillies. Mix well. Next, add the mango juice mixture containing the soaked chickpeas and fenugreek seeds. Continue mixing. Then add the grated mango coated in turmeric and salt. Mix thoroughly.

Heat the Mustard Oil in a pan on a Medium flame till it reaches its smoking point. Turn the heat off and let the oil cool down to room temperature.

Pour the cooled Mustard Oil into the bowl and mix all the contents thoroughly.

Carefully pour/transfer the contents into the large pickling jar that you had sterilized and dried earlier. Cover the mouth of the jar with a clean, dry muslin cloth and tie it firmly with a cord around the neck of the jar. Put the jar out in the sun (ideally in a place like a terrace, a balcony or a window sill). Remember to bring the jar indoors at night to prevent moisture from setting in. Repeat this process for around four to five days.

Your Mango and Chickpeas Achaar is now ready. Revive a glorious culinary heritage… relish its traditional flavour… enjoy a condiment that has been tickling Indian taste-buds for centuries.

An Exotic Cashew Pickle

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On this blog we have looked at fruit pickles, vegetable pickles and meat pickles – now it’s time to try something with nuts! Yes, let’s try a pickle with Cashew Nuts.

These are the ingredients that you will require:

  • Cashew Nuts: 50 grams
  • Mustard Oil: 100 millilitres
  • Mustard Seeds (Rai): 2 teaspoon
  • Red Chillies: 2
  • Red Chilli Powder: 2 tablespoon
  • Fenugreek (Methi) Powder: 1 teaspoon
  • Asafoetida (Heeng): Just a pinch
  • Garlic: 100 grams
  • Urad Dal: half-a-teaspoon
  • Channa Dal: half-a-teaspoon
  • Lemon Juice: 60 millilitres
  • Curry Leaves: 5
  • Salt: 2 teaspoon

Preparation:

Split the cashew nuts into crescent-shaped halves.

Grind the mustard seeds into a coarse powder.

Peel the garlic and keep aside.

Finely chop the red chillies.

Wash and sterilize a glass or porcelain pickling jar and wipe it dry. Let it dry completely. Once again, make sure it’s completely dry… there should be no droplets of residual moisture.

Method:

Pour the lemon juice into a large bowl. Add the ground mustard seeds, red chilli powder, fenugreek, asafoetida and salt. Mix well. Add the cashew pieces and continue mixing.

Heat the Mustard Oil in a large pan on Medium heat till the oil reaches its smoking point. Put one or two tablespoon of this oil in a frying pan and sauté the garlic till it turns golden brown.

In the large pan, add the Urad Dal, Channa Dal, red chilli and curry leaves. Next add the sautéed garlic and the cashew nut-spices mixture. Remove from the flame, and let the mixture cool down.

Carefully pour/transfer the contents into the large pickling jar that you had sterilized and dried earlier. Cover the mouth of the jar with a clean, dry muslin cloth and tie it firmly with a cord around the neck of the jar. Place the jar in the sun (ideally outdoors in a place like a terrace, a balcony or a window sill). Remember to bring the jar indoors at night to prevent moisture from setting in. Repeat this process for around four to five days.

Your delicious Cashew Garlic Achaar is now ready to make a grand entrance on your dining table. Enjoy it with food, family and friends.

Dry – but Delicious!

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On many occasions – and across many posts – we have described the many, many variations of the traditional North Indian Mango Achaar that have been around for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years. In today’s post, we look at another interesting variation: a dry version of the ever-popular Mango Pickle.

The ingredients that you will require are:

  • Raw Mangoes: 5 kilograms
  • Mustard Oil: 500 millilitres
  • Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds: 200 grams
  • Fennel (Saunf) Seeds: 200 grams
  • Nigella (Kalonji) Seeds: 100 grams
  • Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: 200 grams
  • Red Chilli Powder: 150 grams
  • Coriander (Dhania) Powder: 200 grams
  • Salt: 600 grams

Across India, pickles are made in huge quantities because they are meant to be consumed by large families throughout the year. This recipe produces around 2 kilograms of pickle. Adjust the ingredients according to your requirements.

Preparation:

Wash and dry the mangoes. Make sure they are completely dry. Some people put the mangoes out in the sun to dry. Once the mangoes are dry, cut them into small pieces. Throw the seeds away. Do not wash the cut pieces – just wipe them dry. The reason we are being so paranoid about avoiding washing is that moisture can ruin your pickles… completely! So make sure that you start the process with totally dry mango pieces.

Coarsely grind the fennel seeds.

Wash and sterilize a glass or porcelain pickling jar and wipe it dry. Make sure it is completely dry before you use it. For the quantity mentioned in this recipe, you may require two or more jars. For this pickle, the jars should have airtight lids.

Method:

In a large container (that has an airtight lid), mix the mango pieces. Add the salt and mix well. Seal the container with the airtight lid and set it aside for three days. Each day, open the lid, mix the contents thoroughly and seal the container again.

After three days, open the container and check carefully. If the mangoes have released any moisture or juice, drain and strain this juice and keep aside at room temperature (do not put it in the fridge).

Place the mango pieces on a clean dry cloth and put them out in the sun for three days (if you are in North India; in places where the summer heat isn’t as intense, four or five days may be needed to dry the mango pieces). Use the same cloth to wrap the mango pieces and bring them indoors at night – to prevent moisture from setting in. Like we said earlier – moisture kills your pickle!

How do you figure out if the mango pieces are dry? Well, the outer skin (peel) will be all wrinkled because of dehydration; and the inside portion will feel completely dry and leave no moisture on your hands when you handle the pieces.

In a large bowl, mix the fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder and ground fennel seeds. Mix thoroughly. Next, add the water/juice that you had drained from the mango pieces and set aside. Mix well.

Now add the mango pieces – and mix thoroughly; make sure each mango piece is coated with the mixture of spices.

Transfer the contents of the bowl into the pickling jars.

Heat the Mustard Oil in a pan on a Medium flame till it reaches its smoking point. Shut the flame off and let the oil cool down to room temperature.

Pour the Mustard Oil into the pickling jars; make sure that the mango pieces are completely covered by the mustard oil. Put the airtight lids on the jars and store them for around 25 days. During this period of time, the mango pieces will slowly absorb the mustard oil.

What you are left with is a dry Mango Achaar that will last for as long as one year – provided your family and friends don’t gobble it all up before that!

A Mind-blowing Mutton Pickle!

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Mango Achaar may indeed be the nation’s favourite pickle but let’s not forget that India has a mindboggling array of pickles – and the sheer variety is just incredible! So far we have been exploring pickles made with vegetables and fruits. For a change, let’s try a non-vegetarian pickle. Here’s an amazing pickle made with mutton.

The ingredients that you will need are:

  • Mutton, boneless: 500 grams
  • Mustard Oil: 250 millilitres
  • Lemons: 5
  • Ginger-Garlic Paste: 2 tablespoon
  • Red Chilli Powder: 2 tablespoon
  • Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: 1 teaspoon
  • Garlic pods: 3
  • Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds: half a teaspoon
  • Cumin (Jeera) Seeds: half a teaspoon
  • Coriander (Dhania) Seeds: half a teaspoon
  • Salt: to taste

 

Preparation:

Cut the mutton into small cubes and wash the pieces thoroughly. Mix the salt, turmeric powder and ginger-garlic paste to create a marinade. Coat the mutton pieces with this mixture and set aside – allow the mutton to marinate for at least fifteen minutes. Then roast the marinated mutton till it becomes completely free of moisture, completely dry.

Dry roast the fenugreek, cumin and coriander seeds. Let them cool down; then grind them into a coarse powder.

Crush the garlic pods into a paste.

Extract the juice from the lemons.

Wash and sterilize a glass or porcelain pickling jar and wipe it dry. Let it dry completely. Once again, make sure it’s completely dry… there should be no droplets of residual moisture.

Method:

Heat the Mustard Oil in a pan on a Medium flame, till it reaches its smoking point. Add the mutton pieces and cook till the mutton takes on a glistening golden-reddish texture.

Add the red chilli powder – mix well. Then add the ground spice seeds. Add the fresh garlic paste. Continue mixing.

Reduce the flame to Low, add the lemon juice and let the contents simmer till the oil separates out from the mixture. Remove the pan from the flame and let the contents cool down.

Carefully pour/transfer the contents (along with the Mustard Oil) into the large pickling jar that you had sterilized and dried earlier. Use an airtight lid to close the jar. Unlike the fruit and vegetable pickles that you prepare, this mutton pickle does not have a long shelf life (since it contains meat). However, if you refrigerate it, it can last for a month or so. That’s why it is best to make this pickle in batches, in smaller quantities.

Your traditional Mutton Achaar is now ready. You can have it as a side-dish with snacks, or with rice or roti along with your meals.

Pickling Secrets from Grandma’s Archives

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One of our food writers from Mumbai had the good fortune of finding – in an old unused cabinet in her ancestral home – a diary written more than a hundred years ago by her great grandmother. Among other things, the diary contained some of the memorable recipes that her great grandma had been famous for; the family always thought that those recipes had been lost forever – but the discovery of the diary changed all that.

Here is one of the gems from that diary. It is a Parsi Mango Pickle called Buffena. But unlike its North Indian counterparts, it is made with ripe mangoes – not raw ones.

Let’s get started on recreating the timeless magic of Buffena. The ingredients that you will need are:

Ingredients:

  • Ripe whole mangoes: 25
  • Mustard Oil: 3 litres
  • Vinegar: 1 litre
  • Mustard Seeds (Rai): 500 grams
  • Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: 2 tablespoon
  • Jaggery (Gur): One and a half kilograms
  • Garlic (Lasun): 125 grams
  • Cinnamon (Dalchini): 30 grams
  • Cardamoms (Elaichi): 30 grams
  • Cloves (Laung): 2 teaspoon
  • Salt: 9 tablespoon

As you can see, the quantities of ingredients in this recipe are huge. That’s because back in the old days, pickles were prepared for the entire (extended) family – and for the entire year! So you may want to scale the quantities down proportionately, depending on how much you want to make.

Preparation:

Wash the mangoes and then dry them thoroughly. Make sure they are totally dry. We emphasize this so strongly because even a little moisture can completely ruin your pickle.

Grind the Mustard Seeds into a coarse powder.

Coarsely grind the cinnamon.

Coarsely grind the cardamoms.

Wash and sterilize several large glass or porcelain pickling jars. Carefully wipe each jar dry. Make sure they are completely dry before you use it.

Method:

Now this is great grandma’s secret technique for “treating” the Mustard Oil prior to making the pickle. Listen carefully. You will need two chapattis for this – they could be rice chapattis or wheat chapattis, makes no difference.

Heat the Mustard Oil in a large pan on a Medium flame till it reaches its smoking point. Now put one chapatti into the oil and cook it till the side facing the bottom of the pan becomes black. Turn the chapatti over and continue cooking till the other side also turns black. Remove the blackened chapatti from the oil and discard it.

Repeat the same process with the second chapatti. Turn the flame off and let the oil cool. Then strain the oil through a muslin cloth and keep the oil aside.

This entire process may sound strange and exotic – but apparently, for hundreds of years Parsis have treated oil in this way before proceeding with pickling.

Now take this “treated” Mustard Oil and pour it into a large pan. Once the oil begins to boil, put the mangoes in. Let them simmer in the oil till they become tender. Remove the pan from the flame and drain the excess oil off – but don’t throw it away. Store it in another pan.

In a bowl mix the turmeric powder, jaggery, garlic, cloves and salt along with the ground mustard seeds, cinnamon and cardamoms; pour in the vinegar. Add two tablespoons of the “treated” Mustard Oil. Mix well.

Thickly coat each mango with this spice mixture. Then place the mangoes in the pickling jars. Pour the excess spice mixture into the jars, over the top of the mangoes. Finally, pour the Mustard Oil into the jars so that it covers the mangoes.

Unlike the pickling practices in northern India, the Parsis don’t tie the necks of their jars with muslin cloth. Instead they close the jars with airtight lids. The jars are then put out in the hot sun for ten days.

Your traditional Parsi Buffena is now ready. It can be eaten with pretty much anything… rice, roti or paratha. Parsis typically have it with hot Khichdi.

A Treat for the Taste-buds!

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Today we are going to make a pickle that’s a bit different from the rest. This is an Eggplant Pickle – a popular Achaar in Bengal and Goa.

Let’s get started with the ingredients that you will require:

  • Eggplant (Brinjal): 2 kilograms
  • Mustard Oil: 1 litre
  • Mustard Seeds (Rai): 50 grams
  • Green Chillies: 150 grams
  • Red Chillies: 100 grams
  • Turmeric (Haldi): 1 teaspoon
  • Cumin (Jeera) Seeds: 50 grams
  • Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds: 2 teaspoon
  • Ginger: 150 grams
  • Garlic: 150 grams
  • Sugar: 70 grams
  • Jaggery (Gur): 150 grams
  • Vinegar: 200 millilitres
  • Salt: to taste

Preparation:

Peel and wash the Eggplants thoroughly and dry them. Make sure that they are completely dry. Caution: any residual moisture could ruin your pickle!

When the Eggplants are completely dry, cut them into small cubes.

Grind the ginger and garlic into a paste.

Grind the green chillies, red chillies, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and turmeric with a tablespoon of Mustard Oil into a coarse paste.

In a small bowl, dissolve the Sugar and the Jaggery in the vinegar.

Wash and sterilize a glass or porcelain pickling jar and wipe it dry. Let it dry completely. Once again, make sure it’s completely dry… there should be no droplets of residual moisture. For this recipe, we recommend a large jar as this Achaar is usually made in large quantities (you’ve probably guessed that from the amount of Eggplant required).

Method:

Always remember that the most critical ingredient in the entire pickling process is cold-pressed Mustard Oil. This is the natural preservative that facilitates the pickling process and keeps the pickle fresh and healthy over an extended period of time.

Heat the Mustard Oil in a large pan on Medium heat till the oil reaches its smoking point. Cook the ginger-and-garlic paste. Next, add the ground spices and continue cooking.

Add the Eggplant cubes along with the salt and let the contents cook till they are half done (use a fork to check how soft – or hard – the Eggplant cubes have turned).

Add the Sugar-Jaggery-Vinegar mixture and continue cooking till the contents begin to simmer and the oil rises to the surface. Remove the pan from the flame, cover the pan and let the contents cool for 10 to 12 hours. (In the good old days, Grandma used to let the contents cool for an entire day!)

Carefully pour/transfer the contents into the large pickling jar that you had sterilized and dried earlier. Cover the mouth of the jar with a clean, dry muslin cloth and tie it firmly with a cord around the neck of the jar. Place the jar in the sun (ideally outdoors in a place like a terrace, a balcony or a window sill). Remember to bring the jar indoors at night to prevent moisture from setting in. Repeat this process for around four to five days.

Your traditional Eggplant Pickle is now ready for friends and family to relish and admire – and there’s more than enough to go around.