“Make pickle?” I gulped, wondering if I had a hearing impairment.
It was casually suggested one night last week while I was combing through our mail, making a mental note about a twice forgotten summer camp consent form and wondering if I could put off washing my hair for one more day.
We are pickle fiends, we three. But pickle making has never, ever happened in chez LikeItSpicy.
Indian pickle making (and eating for some) is not for the faint of heart. In fact I often wonder if anyone in our time-starved generation really bothers with it anymore, what with all the Priyas and Pataks lining the shelves of any self-respecting Indian grocery. Why marinate when you can multitask?
Vivid memories of my (sometimes fierce) maternal grandmother and her pickle-making projects surfaced as I absent-mindedly watched a Sex and The City rerun. Recipes and samples were swapped with friends, neighbors, relatives (usually with a key ingredient or two missing.) Mangoes, lemons, gooseberries, green peppercorns, hog-plums and red chillies (I am sure I am missing at least a dozen more) had to be sourced, cleaned, cut, sun-dried and brined. A slew of oils had to be purchased. The correct spices had to be procured, measured, roasted and ground.
As the days progressed, the household regressed. Tempers flew when unwanted visitors showed up while the pickling spices were being mixed with a chemist’s precision. Pandemonium ensued when an unexpected thundershower required us to drag platters of damp mango pieces back into the house (not an easy task, mind you). And once the pickles were at rest in large porcelain vats, and stowed away in cool closets toward the back of the house, we would be told that there would be hell to pay if we were caught sampling prematurely, especially with filthy fingers.
Back to the present. I am always up for a cooking challenge. But I couldn’t help wonder which was worse, the child doing the cha cha on a bed of red chillies spread out on the deck, or the pooch relieving himself on a sea of cut raw mangoes drying in the back yard.
And there ain’t no hog plums in New England.
Thankfully the recipe in question involved neither the above ingredients, nor any sun drying. It took all of a half hour. Hopefully it will stay in the pantry for longer than that.
Green Chilli Pickle
It is important to choose the right kind of green chilli for this pickle, especially if you do not live in India. Jalapenos are a no-no. Do not pick green finger chillies, thai green chillies or serrano peppers (the smaller green chillies, basically). These are used to spice up dishes, and I wouldn't recommend them for pickle unless you like your insides seared. I used a no-name green chilli that I found at the Indian grocers (very helpful, huh?). These are long, slim and a pretty vivid green. They have a slight bite and lend themselves very nicely to pickle. And finally, you can get cracked yellow mustard seeds at most Indian grocery stores.
1 lb green chillies
3/4 cup cracked yellow mustard
1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 cups oil (I used regular cooking oil)
2 tbsp fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 cup salt
Heat the oil in a small saucepan. When hot add the black mustard seeds. Turn off the stove once they start crackling and leave the oil to cool.
In a small skillet, roast the fenugreek seeds and asafoetida until you get a nice aroma. Turn off the stove, and immediately add the turmeric powder. Stir vigorously and allow to cool.
Chop the green chillies into small rings. Toss into a bowl and add salt, lime juice and the cracked yellow mustard.
Grind the fenugreek seed mixture into a smooth powder. Do not use water when doing so. Add the powder and the oil to the chilli mixture. Add more salt if necessary. Mix thoroughly and transfer into clean, dry bottles. Store in a cool, dark place.
Superb with bread and rotis.