Saturday, April 18, 2015

"P" is for Pickles. A to Z Challenge Day 16.

Most families have their own secret pickle recipes. When we were young, come raw mango season, each house would be making their own. My Mom made four versions, each one was special. One was a sweet one spiced with dried chillies and ginger. Another was a sour dried stick that could make your tongue curdle. Yet another was grated raw mango in oil, spiked with mustard and chillies. The signature one, the recipe for which had been handed down my father's family for generations, was made with lentils.

Growing up, I remember the cut raw mangoes drying in the sun on the terrace. There were these big nets to protect them from the crows. We used to steal the raw mangoes and get into trouble for touching it with our grubby hands...

Pickle making, sadly is now a dying art. Who has the time, the patience, the energy? So let me share one special recipe with you in the hope that it will live on.

And even if you are not planning on making the pickle, I would request you to read the recipe in any case and maybe appreciate the time, effort and patience our mothers and grandmothers put in to ensure we had that tangy tasty thing on our dining table!


Usually pickles are made in bulk. Why? Because, made properly, they stay for a long time. And in those days it used to be shared out in the family. The following recipe however only uses 2 kgs (about 10/12) of  raw mangoes. It can be increased proportionately if you are feeling adventurous enough!


  1. Firm raw mangoes without marks. 2 kgs.
  2. Mustard oil: 1 litre
  3. Bengal Gram daal: 1 cup
  4. Panch Phoron: 2 tbsp
  5. Turmeric
  6. Salt.
  7. 2 clean glass jars with tight lids. 
  1. Wash the mangoes well, taking care to remove all the gum near the head. Dry them completely with a towel. 
  2. Cut the mangoes lengthwise and then across. The pit should be a little hard but you should be able to cut through it. Take care not to cut your hand as it can be hard. You could try it with a meat cleaver. Discard the inner pit, It's soft and comes off easily. 
  3. Rub the mangoes with salt and turmeric. Take care not to let any water touch the mangoes. 
  4. Put the mangoes out in the sun to dry. Spread it out and cover it with a net or light cloth to ensure the sun gets to it but not the birds! 
  5. Clean and wash the daal. Spread it in the sun to dry as well. 
  6. Wait. Remember the mangoes and the daal have to dry completely. You have to turn them over from time to time but not too often. Do not touch the mangoes except with washed and dried hands. Each evening the mangoes have to be taken in and then put out in the sun in the morning. In case of a thunderstorm or rain, the mangoes and the daal have to be rescued immediately! It takes about a week or ten days for the mangoes to be ready for the next stage. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Take care not to let ants or other creepy crawlies get to them. 
  7. When the mangoes are dry but not too dry, dry roast the panch phoron. 
  8. Mix the dried daal, the mangoes and the panch phoron and add some salt. Divide into two glass jars. Pour mustard oil into the jars till it just covers the mangoes. You may not need all the oil. Remember, no water! The glass jars should be completely clean and dry. 
  9. Seal the glass jars completely. By this I also mean that once the jar has been closed, cover the mouth with a clean cloth and tie it up tight. Thereafter put a plastic cover on the lid and tie that. This will prevent the water from entering the jar in case of rain. 
  10. Now put the jars out in the sun. 
  11. It takes a month or so for the pickle to mature. At least. During that time it must be in the sun every day. Care has to be taken, oil has to be added if less. Also once in a while the jars have to be shaken so that the oil gets to all the mangoes. As before, look after the jars in rain and storms. The mangoes will darken as they 'cook' in the sun.
  12. When the pickle looks ready, unseal the jar and enjoy! Take care never to use a dirty or wet spoon to take out pickle as it will spoil. Once made, pickles stay for days... even years. See the picture, that's very mature mango pickle that I made two years ago!


  1. Yummy! I love pickles. The mango pickle especially. Reminds me of childhood and sneaking those mango pieces as they dried. My favourite though are the Whole limes pickled in salt. Yes we filched them too. :)

  2. Yeah, love those lime ones, eternal!