Friday, February 05, 2010

Project Pickle

In school, my friendship with girls from the Marwari community was solely for one purpose only. Pickles.

I would often come back home to my Mum and urge her to make pickles like Moms of these other girls who would get a variety of pickles in their “tiffin”. My Mum relented, but only with bazaar-made pickles. Which were no good. Oily, full of artificial colors and almost tasteless.

I tried to befriend more Marwari girls for variety, you know. I had the palate of a pickle connoisseur at age 13! I could tell whose Mum’s pickles outdid whose. I maintained a sort of pickle-loyalty in my friendships with the girls who got the best ones in their lunch boxes, and shared them with me. After all I was a young girl with a lot of integrity. I think they also carried home feedback for their Moms. I sure did notice improvement in both taste and quantity in some of them.

One time, my new friend KJ even brought me a jar of green chili pickle her Mom made. That day I offered her my egg roll, but she declined politely. If I remember right, I think I also offered her some money in return for the pickle, but she was sweet not to let her entrepreneurial genes get the better of her. Friends we were for life!

Mrs J’s Green Chili Pickle did leave a lingering taste on my impressionable palate. After almost 20 years, I have replayed the flavors in my mind, and here is what I created today. In just under 30 minutes!

The inspiration of course is my chili loving husband, who calls himself a “chili fiend”, and can smack off 5-6 really hot peppers (which I serve on toothpicks) at any dinner at home.

I don’t know if I have a good pickle-thumb, but the beginning sure was easy.

This is pretty much an instant pickle and is ready to eat after a day of making it. And you don’t have to wait for the sun to be out! (Summers usually are the pickle-making season in India.)

KJ’s family is from Rajasthan, so I think this Green Chili Pickle too has its origin there. But I’d definitely like to know more about pickles/ or as they are called in Hindi - Achaar (from India).

IMG_5450You will most definitely find all the ingredients for this pickle in your kitchen:

200 grams green chilies
half cup freshly squeezed juice of lemon
3 tablespoon (yellow) mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon asafetida powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
half cup mustard oil


Chilies are a premium purchase in North America. Not all supermarkets have them, and those that you do find in non-Asian grocery stores are often not hot. Even the Thai Chilies are pretty heatless to an Indian palate like ours.

Hence my spot of chili shopping are the Indian/Bangladeshi or Oriental stores.

IMG_5449 Wash, pat dry and chop the green chilies.

IMG_5455Dry grind coarsely the mustard seeds.

IMG_5452 Dry roast the fenugreek seeds and asafetida powder on slow heat. Do not leave them unsupervised and risk chances of burning them. Pickle is all about patience. Coarsely grind the fenugreek-asafetida mixture too.

IMG_5457 Heat mustard oil in a pan. You know its ready for pickling when it almost reaches smoking point.

IMG_5458In a bowl, place the mustard powder and then add the fenugreek-asafetida mixture. The teaspoon of turmeric should be a non-intrusive spice to the hot oil which you will add last!

IMG_5462 Let this mixture cool off.

IMG_5459Add this spice mixture and oil to the chopped green chilies, pour lemon juice and sprinkle salt.


Mix well and store in a dry jar.


The green chili pickle will be ready to eat with parathas the next day.

Usually such a small quantity of pickle doesn’t need refrigeration. The hot oil treatment tempers the spices which now have already been cooked. Its important however to let the chilies sit in the spices of at least 24 hours.

I can’t wait to see “Earth” raid that bottle of Chili Pickle tomorrow for breakfast with some sizzling alu ke parathe! I am sure he will be pickled pink…


It sure looks like a winner to me already.

1 comment:

harshika said...

omg! I was just like you in school...i used to befriend marwari girls for their pickles in the lunch box! And I would come back and tell my mom 'mamma, woh hindu wala achaar banao'! Why Hindu you ask? Because my mom is christian and a lousy cook and I associated good food= hindu cooking...sigh, such innocence when we were kids eh!