PICKLES AND PICKLING

By Published On: 20 Sep '20Last Updated: 21 Sep '20

Have you ever found an Indian pantry without a bottle of pickle or achaar in it?

It is almost impossible to find an Indian fridge or pantry that does not stock at least one bottle of pickle in it. Curry powders may come and go but there are some classics such as spicy and sweet pickles that our parents, our grand-parents and their grand parents used to spice up the plainest of wartime rations that never leave our pantries.

Pickling is so closely associated with my childhood and these little jars of tangy, salty, spicy and sweet deliciousness of another level need to be blogged about.

Pickling is an ancient craft that dates back to 2300 BCE and archaeologists believe that the first evidence of pickled cucumbers originates from the Tigris river valley civilization. Pickling is a process where non-seasonal food was preserved in brine and/or vinegar for longer duration. Ancient civilisations such as Egyptians, Chinese and Indians used pickling for food preservation.

Interestingly there is a reference to cucumbers in the Holy Bible Isaiah Chapter 1:8

“And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city”. I will keep doing some research into this verse and will update my blog if I find a good explanation of this verse.

In the meantime, most Indian meals come with accompaniments/sides eg., pickles, chutneys, salads, papads or simply sliced onions and lemon. Two of my most favourite accompaniments/sides and still are the carrot and papaya pickle and lemon pickle, both of which are published in my cookbook ‘Deliciously Indian’. The only difference is, in the carrot and papaya pickle, I have used chokos (chayote) instead of papaya because I used to have a choko tree at home and that tree produced a large number of chokos. I felt chokos were a good substitute to papayas as their flesh is crunchy and they have a very light flavour and can be incorporated into almost anything. It is noteworthy that the crunch of the carrots lasts longer than the crunch of the chokos.

Why do pickles hold such a significant place in South Indian and Mangalorean cuisine?

Oh! for sure pickles enhance the taste of the blandest of Indian meals (I can assure you, there are not many bland Indian meals) and they are finger licking good with variations ranging from the hot, sweet, sweet and spicy, with every region having their own special versions and recipes and every house having their own mouth-watering secret recipes.

More importantly, the Indian Government bans fishing for 61 days on the West and East coasts of India from June to August to protect fish during their spawning season as well as prevent fishermen from going to the sea to catch fish. As a result of this ban, the coastal people of India for whom fish is a staple, rely heavily on vegetables and legumes to sustain during the monsoon season which lasts from June to mid-September. The Mangalorean Catholics love their vegetables and legumes however these vegetarian dishes are best eaten with one or more accompaniments. A spoonful of pickle makes the vegetables go down in a most delightful way!

Pickling season in India is around February and everything from carrots, jackfruits, berries, gourds, papayas, raw mangoes, lemons and chillies are doused in spice pastes, salt and different oils to be used during monsoons and beyond. Pickling brings me back many memories associated with my childhood where I would run to the concreted area of the front yard near the well to save the drying vegetables from rain because my mother relied on my speed to run and grab the drying vegetables.

In my house, it was a tradition to make spicy mango pickle made with diced mangoes, mince mango pickle made with minced mangoes, lemon pickle in brine, sweet lemon pickle, papaya and carrot pickle (both sweet and spicy versions) to name a few. Further, as there was no fresh fish available during the monsoons, my mum also used to make fish pickles such as mackeral (bangdas) pickle (pada), prawn pickle (balchao) and Bombay duck or bombil pickle which is a fish not a duck by the way, as a spicy accompaniment with our dhal or other legume preparations. You can imagine the summer months were pretty hectic preparing for the forthcoming monsoon season. There is one thing worthy of mention that if we were not prepared for the monsoons,

The most popular pickle in our household was a pickle prepared by my mum and my grandma known as mince mango pickle (kosrache lonche). The entire family would sit around several mangoes and mince those mangoes and the elaborate process of pickling would begin. This pickle involves pickling the minced mangoes with chillies, salt, vinegar, mustard oil and other spices and sweetened by the addition of sugar syrup or left spicy. It would be several days before the pickle would be ready to eat but it was worth the effort. All my siblings who had not left the nest knew this was something the entire family did together annually, and we looked forward to sitting on the floor of a spare room in the house to mince these mangoes. My mum would always put away a bottle of this beautiful pickle for me to bring to Australia each time I visited India, for several years until she was unable to do it. I have never made this pickle in Australia as my hectic working schedule never really permitted me to prepare elaborate pickles but there is always a desire and hope. I promise I will publish this recipe if I get around to doing this pickle at some stage and keep your fingers crossed, I will get the right mangoes for this pickle! I have a recipe for this pickle handwritten by my grand-mother and the recipe dates back to the 1940s. Some day I will get down to preparing this lonche for my family.

Many of these pickles have commonly used vegetables and spices however each pickle has a distinct method which has to be followed to the tee to achieve perfect results. Although the spices look similar, the resulting pickles are unique to each culture as no two pickles are the same.

The traditional methods of making pickles are very labour intensive for this modern working generation therefore I have adapted a faster approach to getting this pickle ready in an hour or close enough. Click the link and check out the recipe. Carrot & Choko Pickle.

Do you have any pickles in your pantry? Which is your favourite? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for visiting me and have a great day and a great week ahead!

Sweet Bitter Gourd Pickle (Karetem/Karela)

Lemon Pickle

Brinjal/Eggplant Pickle

Lavina with Deliciously Indian

Hi, I’m Catherine!

I’m all about creating tasty Indian dishes with whatever’s on hand, even when I’m short on time or budget. I love turning simple ingredients into flavorful delights. Join me on this culinary adventure where we’ll explore the magic of Indian cuisine, one delicious dish at a time!

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