Have you ever wondered why pickles play such an integral role in traditional Indian cuisine? Whichever state in India you may be from, chances are that you would have a culinary tradition – of some popularly known (or even not so well-known) pickle that’s particular to your state, town, village…or granny’s kitchen!
While we don’t really know the true origins of most of these pickles, it is safe to believe that millennia before refrigeration and canning were invented, pickling was a way to increase the longevity of perishable foods.
Ingredients were cleaned, salted, spiced, dried and pickled in oil and then cured in the sun till the moisture content evaporated, and the pickle was ready to be stored for use, all year round.
Why do we use groundnut oils in pickles?
Oil plays the role of a natural preservative and increases the longevity of home-made pickles. Oils like groundnut oil are preferred, because they stay stable over long periods of time. Unlike some other oils, groundnut oil has a very long shelf life and doesn’t turn rancid.
Groundnut oil, a high-quality oil of vegetable origin is made from skinned groundnut kernels. The oil has a light nutty aroma and its flavour is also mildly nutty and very mildly sweet. This property helps it to balance other flavours such as sourness and spice.
Groundnut oil is among the lesser processed oils and it retains several of its natural properties that are good for our health.
Not only does it enhance the flavour of the pickle, the unsaturated fatty acids in groundnut oil have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which aid in maintaining good health. It is also common knowledge that pickles preserved in groundnut oil, when consumed in regulated quantities, stimulate the taste buds and promote the production of digestive enzymes.Pickles neutralise harmful microorganisms and replace them with beneficial, live ones. They also boost to the immune system, and not to forget, increase our appetite.
Benefits of home-made pickles
Most people will be surprised to know that homemade pickles have natural probiotics. The fermentation process during pickling produces healthy bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics are known to aid in digestion as well as improve gut health by protecting our guts against bad bacteria and pathogens.
The natural probiotics in pickles are also known to renew and restore affected tissue linings in the digestive tract.
Most of the pickles from South India are made using Groundnut oil. The fiery red Avakkai from Andhra, Red Chilli and Tamarind Pickle from Tamil Nadu, Tender Mango Pickle from Karnataka, Lime Pickle from Kerala – they all owe a huge part of their popularity to the groundnut oil that acts as a taste enhancer.
A few tips for pickling from home
Making pickles at home is not rocket science. Our ancestors have been doing it since time immemorial. A few right ingredients, a few dos and don’ts to be kept in mind, and you are ready to go…
Make sure your main ingredient (mango, chillies, tamarind, bilimbi, carrot, dates etc) is cut to a consistent, uniform size.
Each ingredient has its own cooking-time. If you want to get the best flavours out of each ingredient,make sure you don’t under cook or overcook the ingredients. Under cooking will lead to a raw taste and overcooking will result in a burnt and bitter taste.
The quality of the oil, vinegar, salt, garlic, ginger, chilli and probiotic spices are the key ingredients in most pickles. Since you will not be using artificial preservatives in homemade pickles, make sure you use the right amount of oil, salt and vinegar.
Important alert- do not put a damp spoon in the pickle jar. It will soon have fungus and will spoil in no time. Use a clean dry spoon each time, to ensure longer shelf life.
NuvvulaAvakaya: An easy recipe for a delicious, not-so-common mango pickle from Telangana
- 1 kg fresh, firm, green raw mango- wash well, pat dry and cut into even sized pieces of about 1 ½ inches. Make sure there is no moisture or trace of water
- ½ kg sesame seeds – roast and powder (using a pestle)
- 100 gms ginger-garlic paste
- 1 tsp of cumin seeds and 1/2 tsp of fenugreek seeds – roast separately and powder
- 1 ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp red chilli seeds
- Salt to taste
- 2 tsp mustard seeds
- 250 ml groundnut oil
- Few cloves of garlic
- Seasoning – 1 tsp mustard and 1 tsp cumin
Heat the oil. Add mustard and cumin seeds for seasoning. Add the red chilli seeds, let splutter and turn off the flame. Add the ginger-garlic paste, mix well and let it cool.
Meanwhile mix all the other ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix well. When the seasoning is at room temperature, add it to the main ingredients. Mix well and store in a clean glass container. The pickle can be left in the balcony or terrace, in direct sunlight for a few hours every day for a week.
The delicious pickle will be ready in a week