Friday, August 10, 2012

Indian Summers and Pickles (pictures coming)

Summer is pickle making season in India. Indian pickle is nothing like the small cucumbers in brine we get in the States. Our pickles are vegetables dried with salt (no water added) and then mixed with seasonings and chilli powder and oil. They last a year or two if they are made properly.
The most popular pickles in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are made with limes or green mango.
In the North and West almost every vegetable is made into a pickle. Generally pickles are hot and spicy but in Gujarat they are sweet and sour and spicy. In Bengal and Kerala fish and prawn pickles are a specialty. Each community seems to have their own special pickles.

Lime pickle is the traditional South Indian pickle served on every marriage 'thali'. It has to accompany the curd/yogurt rice that is the last course of the meal itself.
Pickle is also an accompaniment to everyday meals, that compensates for lack of salt or spice in any dish. Some people can't eat an Indian meal without pickle.

Traditionally of course pickles were made to preserve the vegetables/green mangoes available in summer for year round use. Marrried women in the South went home to their mother's house for a month or two in the summer, children in tow, and returned after their visit laden with pickles and other treats.
Most pickles can be made by any and everybody but for lime pickle, my mother always said one needed 'the hand'. If you didn't have 'the hand', the lime pickle always went bad i.e spoiled soon after it was made. Luckily for us my mother had 'the hand' and so did my sister. Unfortunately I do not.
The lime pickle was made and stored in an earthen jar about 14" high. The mouth of the jar was tied with a muslin cloth. The lime pickle was removed in small quantities to another glass bottle for serving. Some traditions attached to pickle: A woman having a period could not make or touch the pickle later or it would go bad. No water/wet hands/wet spoons were allowed to come in contact with the pickle. My mother used to say the pickle made by her grandmother who obviously had 'the hand' could last up to three years.

Four friends visited us last year and when the ladies Jessie and Mallika saw how much we enjoyed our lime pickle from India, the latter offered to make some. Mallika said I could put the lime pickle she was showing me how to make in the refrigerator right away and then it wouldn't go bad.
Overriding my protests that she should relax and not work, she made not one but two delicious pickles. The first one was an Instant Lemon Pickle that vanished minutes after it was placed on the table!
The second one was a lime pickle and I still have a small treasured amount left in the refrigerator!

Lemon Pickle...Mallika Arasu

1large lemon chopped into 1 cm pieces
1 c water
Cook lemon in water with 1 Tbsp salt
2 tiny spoons (1/3 tsp) rai and methi (mustard seed and fenugreek seeds)
Roast separately and powder in blender.
Heat ½ cup sesame oil.
Add 2/3 tsp whole rai.

When it splutters add ⅓ level tsp hing (asafoetedia). 
 (If it’s the strong 303 brand of hing, reduce to ¼)
1 ½ big Tbsps chilli powder

I can't believe how delicious this was.

Lime pickle...Mallika Arasu

10 limes

6 tablespoons methi (fenugreek seeds)
8 tablespoons rai (mustard seeds)
Fry till brown and grind in blender
Cut limes into quarters or eighths (Mallika chopped them into one sixteenths).
Heat ¾ cup til oil
Put in methi and rai powder and ⅓ tsp hing.
Switch off the stove.
Add lime pieces.
Add 6 rounded teaspoons chilli powder
Add 1 level tsp haldi
Add 2 rounded tablespoons rock salt.
Store in a glass bottle in refrigerator.
Shake bottle to toss lime pieces every day till soft (it's ready to eat in about three weeks).



To add to this wonderful list of pickles is this one from an old friend.  I changed the recipe slightly by adding apple cider vinegar and increasing the amount of garlic.  Though chefs insist that adding an ingredient or changing the recipe in any way gives you ownership of the recipe, I would still like to credit Lalita as she gave me this recipe.
It is delicious, keeps well in the refrigerator and everyone wants the garlic pods in the pickle laced with the flavor of green chillies.

1 kg green chillies (2.2 lbs)
2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp each: dhania/coriander seeds and whole jeera/cumin
2 tbsp amchur powder (amchur/pomegranate seed powder)
1 cup til oil   
1 tsp sugar     
½ cup white vinegar  (I used apple cider vinegar and it gave the pickle a great flavor).      
20 pods garlic, peeled  (I double this amount)
2 inch ginger peeled and sliced or chopped    

Wash and dry chillies on a paper towel.
I use the jalapeno if I cant get the serrano peppers but make sure they are hot.
Roast dhania and jeera seeds in a pan or in the microwave.
Blend fine and mix with salt and amchur powder.
Slit chilles and fill with the powder mix..
Heat oil.  
Add ginger and garlic and fry for a minute
Put chillies in and leave for another minute.
Add 1 tsp sugar and vinegar
Simmer 2 mins.

When completely cool, bottle and store in refrigerator.  The flavor is amazing.


Sweet & Sour Green Mango Pickle...Cassandra D'Silva

Cassandra was a fellow student in St. Mary’s Training College, whom I knew 46 years ago.  She had the voice of an angel.  Her rendering of ‘Ave Maria’ is one of the best I’ve ever heard.  

One summer she brought in a bottle of this super delicious sweet and sour mango pickle for each friend.  It was a family recipe; a dish from her home town in Goa and one her mother made every year.  Everyone in college and at home loved it, and I made it every year after that as long as there were green mangoes around..

5 lbs green mangoes (Cassie said those on the brink of turning yellow made the best pickle).
2 rounded tbsps chilli powder (she said ‘to taste’)
2 tbsps haldi
1 tbsp methi powder
¼ lb whole rai/mustard powder (powdered rai)
1 tbsp jeera powder
½ lb garlic, peeled.
⅛ lb whole pepper (I reduce this to 1/16)
1 bottle vinegar
1 ½ lb jaggery.
7 rounded tbsp salt (my estimation for what works well)
2 lbs oil

Dissolve jaggery in vinegar on medium heat. Strain the liquid when cool to make sure there is no grit/stones in the jaggery.
Heat oil well.
Put in all the masala and fry well (3-5 mins on medium).
Add mango and garlic cloves. Fry again for 3-5minutes. (my variation)
Add the jaggery and vinegar and allow mango to cook...15 mins.
Cool and bottle.

My favorite North Indian pickle is green mango made with somph (fennel).
My second favorite South Indian pickle is 'avvakkai', a pungent green mango pickle.
My favorite Maharashtrian pickle is a fresh one made with carrots and green chillies.


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