Pickling is a method practiced around the globe to extend the life of produce for when rations are scarce. Mangoes, gooseberries, chillies, limes, seafood and more things than we can imagine can be pickled – sundried or cooked – and are relished with foods such as khichadi, thalipeeth and even shira (sooji halva)!
Contrary to popular perception, making pickles is not very difficult; at least not once you understand some of the basics such as keeping any sort of moisture at bay and sterilizing your bottles. It is also a good idea to bring out small portions of the pickle from the ‘master’ pickle jar for regular use so there is lesser risk of spoilage.
My aunt’s home in Khanapur had three mango trees. At the entrance, on the corner of the gate, was an Alphonso variant. On most days, this tall tree would be covered in red dust from the dirt road that it overlooked. Passersby – children, adults and monkeys alike – would eye the fruit and make their afternoon assaults on the tree while the household napped. Whatever little the family were lucky to find was eaten quickly and without much ceremony.
Toward the back of the house, tucked away from the public eye, was the Paayri tree, whose fruit is warm, intoxicating, sweet and tart – all at once. Unlike the Alphonso, the Paayri is a plumper fruit, which even when fully ripe barely turns a few shades of greenish yellow as opposed to the rich sunshine orange of the Alphonso.
The most dramatic of them all, though, was the tree in the front lawn, as tall as it was wide. It stood just outside the kitchen window, its primary branches making perfect seats for us children to perch on through the summer. I remember the rough crevices of its bark as I sat on the lowest V formation of the branches. Sometimes, I would take a book there to read. I once wrote a poem there using an old, yellowed notepad and one of my aunt’s freshly sharpened pencils.
This majestic tree was also very fertile. It would yield hundreds of mangoes, and the humongous fruit, a cousin of the Rajapuri variety, was heavy. The upper branches hung over the terrace, and it was so easy to simply climb to the terrace and pluck the fruit. But, and there was a huge ‘but’, this mango could only be consumed raw. If one allowed it to ripen, it would rot. Little worms would crawl out of the ripe mango if you let it turn even the faintest shade of yellow. I always wondered what disease ailed the tree.
But we never figured it out and only made sure we harvested the green, firm, unripe fruit in time. It made the most delectable pickles because its flesh was firm and tart. We also ate it seasoned simply with salt and red chilli powder, a casual snack for when we sat on the steps at the entrance of the house, aimlessly watching the world go by. My very talented aunt would make a few different kinds of jams and preserves from it, and her gulamba (large chunks of peeled unripe mango cooked in a jaggery syrup) was my favourite.
If my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were also visiting, the women would experiment with a plethora of pickle recipes – sweet, sour, hot, spiced, with an oil tempering, without, there was no end to the list! These pickles lasted the year. I have fond memories of large glass jars in various shapes,ceramic jars with wooden or ceramic lids being filled and lined up in the dark storeroom after a few days on the sunny window sill. I was too young to venture into pickle territory then, but one pickle stood out – Mothi Aai’s mohoricha loncha, my great-grandmother’s mustard pickle. Despite its name, the primary ingredient was the unripe mango, but it did have a copious amount of whisked mustard that gave the pickle a decidedly pungent flavour. In our family, it is considered the ‘rite of passage’ pickle because it is the first pickle introduced to children.
Use Totapuri or Rajapuri mangoes for this pickle so you can control the quantity of jaggery, and use good quality Kashmiri red chilli powder for that vibrant colour.
|Raw mango (peeled and diced)||3½ cups|
|Jaggery (chopped)||1 heaped cup, more if the mangoes are very sour|
|Yellow mustard seeds (ground)||3 tablespoons|
|Fenugreek seeds (ground)||1½ teaspoons|
|Asafoetida powder||1 heaped teaspoon|
|Turmeric powder||1½ teaspoon|
|Coriander seed powder (freshly ground)||1 heaped teaspoon|
|Kashmiri red chilli powder||3 tablespoons|
|Water (boiled and cooled completely)||¾ cup|
Place the chopped raw mango in a large nonreactive bowl. Add the salt and mix well. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
In another bowl, place the jaggery and ground mustard and tip in the water. Using a whisk or wooden spoon, mix vigorously until almost all the jaggery melts and the mustard appears frothy.
In a third bowl, place the ground fenugreek seeds, asafoetida, turmeric powder, coriander seed powder and red chilli powder, and mix to combine.
Heat the oil in a pan over a high flame and add to the spices. Mix thoroughly and add to the chopped mangoes. Tip in the jaggery and mustard mixture and mix well. Cover the bowl and allow it to rest for a few hours for the flavours to mingle and for the salt and jaggery to completely dissolve.
Adjust for sugar or salt before filling into jars. Refrigerate for up to a year.
This recipe is from Pangat: Food and Lore from Marathi Kitchens (Hachette India). Bringing together over 200 traditional recipes, culinary researcher Saee Koranne-Khandekar debunks the myths surrounding the foods of Maharashtra.
You must be logged in to rate this recipe.