Friday, April 26, 2013

A TASTE IN THE JAR, INDIA'S 'AAM KA ACHAAR'

By Aeman Fatima Nishat / Hyderabad

Summer time is pickle time. Here’s a lowdown on the best of khatta, meetha and theekha pickles from across the nation. Try your hand at pickling!

Aromatic hot rice mixed with a dash of ghee and a spoon full of avakai — the very imagery is enough to make your mouth water, especially if you are someone born or bred in this part of the world, where no meal is considered complete without a generous helping of suspiciously fiery looking, mouth-watering mango pickle.
In fact, pickle-making used to be a national summer pastime of sorts till recently. Raw mangoes were picked, cleaned, sun-dried under watchful eyes of the women of the household, or sometimes the entire neighbourhood, as they sat around sorting out spices, grinding masalas and improvising the recipe handed down over generations. 

Elaborate pickle-making rituals may be a thing of the past for most working women today, but the nostalgia it brings still lingers, says Kameshwari Kurma, a corporate employee. “Every summer making pickles and papads was an annual ritual at home. Everyone used to gather at my granny’s house for the vacations and all the women folk in the household would plan the threeday process in advance. 

Mangoes were cut in a particular size and sprinkled with rock salt and later slathered with other condiments. While only the elders were allowed to make it, the lil’ uns would help with other things — like bringing materials to the terrace or grinding spices,” recollects Kameshwari, who adds that once the pickle was ready she and her cousins would fight over who gets to eat the first bite of rice mixed with avakai. “It was like World War 3. 

My poor nanamma had to pick someone randomly and most of the times, it would be me,” she quips. In fact, everyone who’s had a summer vacation in India has a mango story to narrate. Rashmi Pandey, a chartered accountancy student, says, “I hated the summer heat and dreaded every vacation in our hometown Banaras. The only saviour was the thought of eating mangoes! I would steal mango pieces that were left to dry on the terrace and also the ripe juicy ones from our neighbours’ house. I escaped most of times, and the one time I got caught, I cleverly told my aunt that I was safe guarding the mangoes from monkeys.” 

Pickles were once the pride of every kitchen in the c o u n t r y, adds Pandey, recollecting her grandmother’s tales of how daughters of the house were never taught how to make pickles for the fear that they would take the recipes away with them after marriage and thus, ‘leak’ it to the sasural. “Family recipes were always closely guarded secrets,” she says. 

Today, for many of us, the pickle story ends with just deciding which brand of bottled pickle to pick up from the market. But if re-living good ol’ times is your thing, then this collection of achar recipes shared by some of our readers might just be what you need. There’s something from every corner of the country. 

UTTAR PRADESH’S AAM KA ACHAR 
Ingredients: 
1 kg raw green mangoes (cut into 8 pieces each) 4 tbsp rock salt 2 tbsp turmeric powder 3 tbsp fennel seeds 2 tbsp mustard seeds 1 tbsp kalonji (onion seeds) 1 tbsp ajwain 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds 50 gms red chilli powder 10 gms hing 2 tsp turmeric powder 250 ml mustard oil 3 tbsp fresh sugarcane juice 

Method 
Wash and dry mangoes thoroughly, leave them out in the sun for two-three days so that the mangoes soften. Once soft, mix the mango pieces along with rock salt and turmeric powder in a ceramic pickling jar. Store in a cool, dark room for two days. This will soften the mangoes further and they’ll leave water. Strain the water, keep aside. 

Meanwhile, dry roast all the spices and powder them. Add this spice mix and sugarcane juice to the mango water and mix well. Now, add this spice mix to the mangoes. 
Heat mustard oil till it smokes and then turn off the fire. Allow the oil to cool fully. 
Pour this oil over the mangoes so that all the pieces are submerged. Mix well. Put the tightly-covered jar back in the sun for two weeks. Stir everyday to mix well and serve with rotis. 

ANDHRA AVAKAI 
Ingredients: 
1 kg raw mangoes 150 gms mustard seeds 250 gm sesame oil 100 gms dry red chilli powder 1/2 tsp turmeric powder Salt (as per taste) 

Method 
Select the mangoes that will go into the ooragai preparation carefully. Mangoes that are sour and firm are generally preferred. Make sure the mangoes are dry. If wet, the mixture gets spoilt. Cut the mangoes into small 1-inch pieces, keeping the outer skin intact. Grind mustard seeds and add dry red chilli powder to it. A fine powder of this mixture is required for the preparation. Now add this powder, turmeric powder and salt to oil. Take a large glass container or tumbler, clean and wipe it well. Fill the mixture in the container and let it remain for 3-4 days. Shake the bottle daily so that the mangoes and the masala is mixed properly. Soon you will notice that the mangoes turn soft and the oil rises up, to the top of the container. Transfer the pickle to a larger bowl. Temper the mustard seeds in 50 grams oil. Let the tempering cool and then pour over the pickle and mix. 

Ingredients: 
I kg raw mangoes peeled and cut into small pieces 150 gms deseeded gunda mangoes 150 gms rai kuriya (split mustard seeds) 1 tbsp turmeric 1½ tbsp salt 3 tbsp chilli powder 2.25 kgs jaggery 4 tbsp dhaniya kuria (split coriander seeds) 150 gms dry dates 

GUJRATI GOR KERI PICKLE 
Tempering: 
2 tbsp asafoetida 100 gms oil 

Method 
Add salt and turmeric to the chopped mangoes and mix well. Close in an air tight jar and keep aside for 12 hours. Drain the water and set aside. To this water, add dried chillies and gunda mangoes, mix well and keep aside for a few minutes. Drain and keep the mix aside. Spread mango pieces on a damp cloth and leave it to dry for an hour Once dried, place in a ceramic container, and add grated jaggery, dried chillies and gunda mix and other spices. Heat oil in a pan and temper with asafoetida, add this to the jar and tie the mouth with a muslin cloth. Keep it in the sun for a day and serve with 
khakra. 

BENGALI MISHTI AAM ER ACHAAR 
Ingredients: 
4 raw mangoes 1tsp salt 1 tsp turmeric powder ½tsp choon or katha (calcium hydroxide helps dry mangoes) 
For the panch phoron: 
1tsp jeera seeds (cumin seeds) 1tsp mustard seeds 1 tsp fennel or mori seeds 1 tsp kalonji seeds 1 tsp black jeera seeds 
For the tadka 
½ cup mustard oil 12 dry red chillies 
¾ cup jaggery (grated) 
1 tbsp roasted cumin 
powder 

Method 
Cut raw mangoes into small pieces and apply salt and turmeric powder. Place it in the sun for a day. Meanwhile, for the tadka, add the five spices called paach phoron — jeera seeds, mustard seeds, kalonji seeds, fennel or mori seeds and black jeera seeds to hot mustard oil. Also add dry red chillies to it. When the paach phoron start to splutter, add the mango mix to this and fry in oil. Cook the mangoes in the tadka until they absorb the oil for about 3-4 minutes. Now, add jaggery and roasted cumin powder. Stir until the jaggery dissolves completely. Leave the preparation to cool. Place in a closed air-tight container. Every alternate day place it in the sun to enhances the taste of the achar. 
Recipe by Kamalika Chatterjee, homemaker

HYDERABADI RISHTE KA ACHAR 
This is the traditional achaar that is made in many Muslim families in Hyderabad. 

Ingredients 
25 kairis (raw mangoes) ½kg mirchi powder (the achaar variety) ¼ kg mustard powder 1 kg salt 1 tbsp fenugreek powder 1½-2 kg mustard oil 

Method 
Cut mangoes into small pieces. Place in a ceramic jar, add salt, mirchi powder and mustard powder. Cover the mouth of the jar with a cloth and keep it in the sun for about a week. Make sure to keep mixing it once every 3-4 days. After about 10 days or so, you will notice a change in the colour of the kairis from green to slight yellow. At this point, you need to add the baghaar to the mango mix. 
For the baghaar: 

Heat oil, add fenugreek powder, mustard powder, whole chillies. Make sure you don’t let this mixture burn. Let this oil preparation cool to room temperature before you add it to mango mix. Leave the mixture for a month or two till the mangoes become soft and the mix gets a darker colour. After the mangoes are softened, the achaar can be served. 
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