This week’s Mondays with Madhu is quite thrilling for me. Why, you ask? Well. I FINALLY delved deep into the elusive world making Indian pickles with my own hands. Before I begin, let me hear a “woohooooooooo!”. For my friends who aren’t sure why this excitement, you got to read this one to know more and join in the celebration.
Every Indian family (from ANY part of India) have their own secret recipe of making pickles. Now, I know my American friends must be wondering why am I celebrating marinated cucumbers so much, those are the pickles you all are used to and I absolutely don’t blame you. But, did you know a whole world of pickles exists that’s made with unripe mangoes, limes, gooseberries, citron, carrots, green chillies…gosh the list is endless and each one of these pickles quickly become the true heroes in uplifting the flavour of any meal.
My very first memories of having homemade pickles was when I was 13-years-old. It was peak summers and mangoes had just started trickling into the market. The unripe ones usually appear at the very beginning of summer and I remember my mother buying a big bag of it from a nearby haat (farmer’s market). These mangoes were then brought home and cute into bite-sized cubes, dried to remove any extra moisture and then marinated in a ton of spice powders until they are soft enough to be consumed. Pickles can also be sweet and sweet-sour. My ideal meal would be dal, rice and a dash of mango pickle/lime pickle.
Remember my Instagram story where I wanted you all to guess what pickle I made and most of you answered carrot (because of the color and texture), I used green apple to make a quick pickle. But, somehow my typical Indian pickle craving wasn’t satiated! I set out to make lime pickle the south indian way. I chose the mexican lime because of their perfect sourness and it seems to be a perfect alternative for the lemon variety that you get back in India. The process of marination, stirring, storage is done with utmost care. I have heard stories from my grandmother about a special attic dedicated to pickle storing and caring. No one except the person who is ace at it was allowed to enter that room. So much love and care is taken to ensure pickles don’t turn bad! Every pickle that’s made has natural preservatives like roasted, ground and powdered fenugreek seeds, heated sesame oil, salt, asafoetida and sometimes these are kept in the sunlight. The spices were all freshly ground at home specially to enhance the flavour. This is exactly why I was completely done with bottled pickles with added preservatives after moving to the U.S. The taste of homemade pickles is incomparable and it’s so much more healthier!
Let me quickly mention my recipe for lime pickle before I go onto mention the benefits of having pickle daily:
- 5-6 fresh lime cut into quarters
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- Rock salt
- Red chilli/ Paprika powder
- 2 tsp black mustard seeds
- Roasted, ground and powdered fenugreek seeds
- 5-6 tbsp sesame oil
- Marination: take about 2 tbsp rock salt, dry roast it in a pan. This helps in removing any extra moisture in the salt. Grind it into a powdered state and add salt according to your taste. You can use regular salt but rock salt adds to the authentic taste.
- In a deep and large mixing bowl (that also has a lid) add your quartered limes, add turmeric powder. Mix until well combined. Leave this mixture to marinate for 2 days and stir it everyday preferably with a wooden spoon or completely dry steel spoon. Be extra careful to dry your hands, the spoon and ensure that there’s no water or moisture around the bowl. Even a little moisture can ruin this process.
- Heat a pan with sesame oil and add the mustard seeds to sputter. Switch off the flame and let the oil rest, add asafoetida at this stage and let oil come from hot to warm temperature, add the spice and powdered fenugreek seeds to the warm oil. Add this mix to the marinated limes and stir until well-combined.
- The lime skin will soften further and in a week’s time this would be ready for consumption. Be careful not to marinate the lime for too long or else they get too mushy after sometime. You want the limes to be whole while you eat!
Let’s see what are the benefits of having homemade pickle:
- Free of artificial preservatives, homemade pickles aid in digestion.
- Reliable source for antioxidants, minerals and vitamins
- Perfect flavour enhancer for your food
- Remove any bad bacteria from your gut
- Once the pickle is ready, it’s kept outside in the sun which only makes it more wholesome, natural (and increases the pickle’s shelf-life as well!)
Would you give this one a try? What’s your favorite homemade add-on like the one above?
Mondays with Madhu
Guest blogger, Plant Life Meals