Actually, for me to be in a pickle is a good thing!
If you have been following along you know I like pickles, pickled cucumber, chillies, tomatoes, giardiniera. All these rely on salt and vinegar. I also happen to love Indian chilli pickle.
Indian pickles are different that pickles from Europe in that they seem salt or oil based. I don’t think they are meant to be preserved for months at a time but I could be wrong. Small spoonfuls daubed onto the side of a plate enhance the main dish and they can turn a rather plain starch – rice or flat bread – into a mouthwatering treat.
I first had this pickle at my dear friend’s house. I happened to stop by shortly after his mother-in-law made it. Visiting from India, this beautiful woman smiled warmly when I asked for a taste. She was surprised that I liked it. Hot, tart, savory, a bit bitter with an unusual funk I could not place my finger on. It was greenish-yellow, quite viscous, and a little gritty. And apparently highly addictive.
I quickly begged a small jar. It lasted a few weeks before I had greedily eaten it all. No, not as a side accompanying rice or flat bread as described above, but out of the jar. With a spoon.
My wife, aka “The Accountant,” couldn’t understand why I was drawn to this fiery condiment. Just the smell put her off.
“How can you eat that stuff?” she asked.
I’d respond with a shrug, and proceed to lick off the spoon, grinning like a fool.
The next time my pals’ MIL was in town I got a bigger jar and a promise to show me how to make it. Unfortunately, our schedules did not allow me to watch the magic.
Fast forward to last week. I was having a bit of rice.
“Honey? Where’s the green chilli pickle?”
“I ate it all.” the Accountant answered from the other room.
I was dumbfounded! Upon cross-examination it seems the Accountant had developed a taste for it herself and, had somehow wiped out the last quarter of the jar. With two addicts in the house, we needed a fix. While the MIL is not due in town until winter, we needed that exotic elixir sooner than later.
Last Friday I was pulling in the chillies and ended up with close to 5 lbs of Indian chillies from two plants given to me by my friends wife, the daughter of the source of the green magic. I scoured the internet for Indian green chilli pickle and after a moderate search found two recipes that sounded like they might get me close. It was time to get busy.
Reading the ingredient lists I came across Asafoetida. If you are not familiar with this pungent seasoning, and I wasn’t, here is a brief description.
Asafoetida is the dried sap from the root of a wild fennel plant ground into a powder. Rich in sulfurous compounds, it is a common ingredient for Jains cookery. Jains eschew eating root vegetables for religious reasons and therefore do not eat garlic or onions, both of which are rich in sulfur. The Asafoetida replaces that flavor component and is in fact the unique flavor that I initially detected in the pickle. It’s known colloquially as “Devil’s Dung.” Perhaps that gives an indication of its’ potency. For more information check out the wiki article. I looked at three stores and finally just went to a spice store where I purchased their small jar. I think it will last a long time.
The two recipes I found have chillies, asafoetida, salt, mustard seeds, fenugreek, and turmeric in common. One calls for the chillis to be tossed with a small amount of salt, drained, then cooked in oil, while the other is a no-cook recipe that uses a lot of salt – 250 grams per kilo of chillies . I decided to make them both and compare the results. I don’t expect to replicate my friends MIL’s results, but perhaps I can hold myself over until she unveils her method.
Cutting nearly 3+ lbs of chillies with kitchen shears takes a bit of time. You may want to just trim off the stem end then use a food processor to chop them coarsely. I was killing time while babysitting the pressure canner so time wasn’t critical to me. I did manage to get a hand cramp. Oh, the sacrifices we make!
This recipe comes from the blog Multiculturiosity.com and is oil based. It is a multi day prep process. I hope it is worth it.
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) salt
1/2 Tablespoon (7 ml) ground turmeric
1/4 cup (60 ml)vinegar
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) black mustard seeds
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) garlic, chopped roughly
1 cup (250 ml) safflower oil
1/2 Tablespoon (7 ml)fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon (5 ml) nigella seeds (black cumin seeds)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground asafoetida
- Wash and dry the chillies.
- Cut off stalks and slice chillies across into small slices and place in bowl
- Remove seeds if you want to reduce the heat, I left them in.
- Sprinkle with salt and turmeric, mix evenly, place in a strainer over a bowl or dish into which the excess water can drip, cover and leave for 2 days in a warm spot.
- On the second day, soak the mustard seeds in the vinegar overnight, then grind in an electric blender with the garlic when you’re ready to start cooking.
- Sterilize three half pint jars and lids.
- Heat oil in a large pan and add the fenugreek and nigella seeds.
- Stir until the fenugreek is golden brown about 10-20 seconds
- Add the asafoetida, stir, and add the blended mustard seeds/garlic mixture and the chillies together with any liquid that ended up in the bowl.
- Cook, stirring occasionally – until the oil rises to the top and the chillies are cooked but soft, 8 – 12 minutes
- Allow to cool slightly – pack into jars. When room temperature place in the fridge for a week to let it develop.
This one comes from this great blog with a small change. Instead of all sesame oil originally listed, I used safflower oil with just a splash of sesame oil. I also like that she got the recipe from her friend’s Mom. Moms are the best cooks, don’t you think?
50 g Lemon juice
5 g Turmeric powder
100 g Split mustard seeds – If you have whole, just grind them coarsely
2 teaspoons (10 ml) ground Asafoetida
5 gms Fenugreek powder
250 gm Salt- yes it is a lot.
1 cup (250 ml) safflower or canola oil + 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Wash and pat dry the chillies, cut into small pieces and put in a large bowl.
- Add all the ingredients except oil and mix well till the chilli pieces are evenly coated with the salt and spices.
- Slowly pour the oil on top of the chillies and gently stir it in.
- Transfer to clean jars, seal with a tight lid and leave it to mature for a minimum of 1 week (shake jars daily – the chilli volume will reduce and the amount of liquid will increase), after which the chillies should be tender and ready to enjoy.
Well, I couldn’t wait – after 3 days I had to give them a taste, I figure they’ll only get better.
At this point I think I like the oil based better – the chillies are more tender, but… it is far too early to tell. The flavors are close, it is just the textures that are different. In any event, I’m pretty sure they both will be enjoyed, and while not the same as the one I’ve had before, they are good.
But I really want her recipe!
Until next time, Eat Well & Keep Digging!