The whole business of pickling has developed strong links with the Petites et Moyennes Entreprises sector. You’ve got to be blind if you attend a SME fair and fail to see a single marchand zasar.

Pickles, however, have a very ancient history as one of the oldest methods of preserving food. It used to be common practice in every household but not seen as often in working families where cooking comprises a fried burger or a boiled mine appollo.

I was lucky to pick up the science of making indian pickles from my mum and auntie. I think my auntie makes the best I’ve known so far. With fruit trees in adundance around her house she can try different combinations at different times of the year, my favourite being achard fruit de cythère - also known as pomme or prune de cythère - or simply, fruit de cythère pickle.

I dunno if you get confused between the terms achard/zasar and kouchia as they are often used interchangably. Kouchia is commonly made from green mangoes or fruit de cythère where the pulp is removed, pounded and squeezed to remove most of the juice. It is then ready for pickling and can be stored for about a month.

Achard requires a lengthier procedure as the fruit has to be split in quarters along with the seed and sun dried for days before it is ready. The shelf live is comparatively longer; over a year in properly sterilised jars. Hope that was not too technical.

SPICES FOR ACHARD – STEP 1

Ingredients:

1/3 cup [20 g] mustard seeds

1 tsp fenugreek seeds/ methi, roasted

1/2 cup dried red chillies

1 bulb garlic, peeled and cut into pieces

1-2 tbs turmeric powder/haldi

Method:

  • Grind mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds together into a fine powder. Add a little water and grind again into a fine paste.
  • Grind garlic and dried chilies with a little water into a paste.
  • Combine mustard paste, garlic-chilli paste and turmeric to get a thick paste that is uniformly yellow in colour.

The best way of preparing the spices paste is by manually grinding them on a roche carri or grinding stone. This traditional kitchen ‘equipment’ consists of a large stone slab and a smaller cylindrical one which is rolled over the slab such that the spices get ground between the two stone surfaces. It may not be as easy as operating an electric grinder but the end result is much more superior.

You can prepare your spices and store them in the fridge in advance. The same spice paste is used for the next 3 recipes.

ACHARD FRUIT DE CYTHèRE

Ingredients:

10 green Fruits de Cythère

5 green chillies, chopped

2-3 tbs spice paste, as above

1/2 tsp salt

3-4 tbs vegetable oil

Method:

  • Peel fruits de cythère and cut flesh into large chunks. Use a sharp knife but be careful as you may have some difficulty to cut through the tough fibrous parts.
  • Discard the core. Coarsely pound the chunks on your roche carri or in a large mortar with pestle.

  • Collect it in a clean cotton cloth and squeeze to extract as much juice as you can. Some people like to leave this hanging and let the juice drip off.
  • Your fruit de cythère is now ready for pickling.

  • Heat oil in a frying pan and add spice paste and salt to it. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Add fruit de cythère and chillies. Stir till well combined.
  • Store in sterilised jars in fridge for upto 1 month.

APPLE & CARROT PICKLE

 

Ingredients:

 3 Granny Smith apples, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

5-10 green chillies, chopped

2-3 tbs spice paste, as above

1/2 tsp salt

3-4 tbs vegetable oil

Method:

  • Heat oil in a frying pan and add spice paste and salt to it. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Add apples, carrots and chillies. Stir till well combined.
  • Store in sterilised jars in fridge for upto 1 month.

PICKLED GREEN CHILLIES

 

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped green chillies

1 tbs tamarind paste

2-3 tbs spice paste, as above

1/2 tsp salt

3-4 tbs vegetable oil

Method:

  • Heat oil in a frying pan and add spice paste and salt to it.
  • Add tamarind and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Add chopped chillies. Stir till well combined.
  • Store in sterilised jars in fridge for upto 1 month.

In response to my friend Nema’s request, I’m also including the recipe for achard legumes/pickled vegetables here.

ACHARD LEGUMES

Ingredients:

2 medium carrots, cut into thin sticks

1 cup french beans, split lengthwise and cut into strips

1/2 of a medium sized cabbage, shredded

1 large bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 small cauliflower, cut into small florets

3 tbs spice paste, as above

1/2 tsp salt

4 tbs vegetable oil

Method:

  • Bring water to boil in a large saucepan. Add 1 tsp salt.
  • Dump carrots and french beans in boiling water for a minute.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon. Place in a cotton cloth and allow excess water to drain.
  • Blanching causes the veggies to soften slightly and lose their raw taste. Repeat for cabbage, pepper and cauliflower.
  • Make sure they are all moderately dry before next step.
  • Heat oil in a frying pan and add spice paste and salt to it.
  • Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Add vegetables and stir till well combined.

Use your homemade pickle to add extra punch to any Indian meal. Makes a great housewarming gift in an attractive package.

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