Achar – Indian spicy pickle conjures up images of tangy food accompaniment that spruces flavours. If I was a food historian, I would research the origins of this delicacy that is specifically prepared to preserve contents for eternity. It goes without saying, pickle mature with age and the taste is out of world. Perhaps, it was means of storing food for the rainy day that created this method of preservation. Generations have used both made and stored pickles. Every household is never without a bottle or two of achars.
In my family, mother learnt the art from her mother; it was a craft that was passed through generations of women to take to their matrimonial home. My mother made mouth watering achars from mangoes, limes and assortment of mixed vegetable. According to her, it was emergency food and a must for travellers to carry in absence of cooking facilities. We often travelled from our home town of Nairobi in Kenya to the coast a journey of 350 miles – in those days it took seven to eight hours to complete. Mother would make prathas for all for lunch wrap these in muslin cloth and make sure a jar of mango or lime pickle was packed with it. We would stop for lunch, have cold prathas with pickles downed with Fanta, coke or some times spicy thermo flasked tea. I learnt to make achars from my mother by watching her.
Whilst mother made vegetable achars – having read a book called Indian cookery by Dharamjit Singh, I delved into making meat ones too! This year two apple trees in my garden produced bumper crop. There is a limit to apple pies; apple crumble and baked apples one could eat. I packed two bags full for my mother to distribute to her neighbours. To my utter surprise, she said, preserve your apples – make apple Achar – I pressed her for the recipe. I must say, the experiment was very successful. Lot of friends online had never heard of it and pressured me to provide me a recipe. It actually tastes better than mango one – apple lends natural tartness to it. I already have several bottles that are two months old – the longer it is kept the more it matures to impart an unique flavour.
Preparing Apples for Achar
1 Cut apple into segments – do not remove skin.
2 Salt the segments and leave overnight in colander.
Salt draws out water from apples.
Remove and let them dry.
For strong achar use Mustard oil – Medium vegetable oil
This is for about 2lbs of apples – increase ingredients to match weight.
- 3 teaspoons Methi Dana (Fenugreek seeds)
- 150 grams White Salt
- 30 grams Red chili Powder
- Jeera( cumin) 4 teaspoons
- 2 Table spoons Saunf( fennel seeds)
- Kalonji ( Onion Seeds)
- 1 TablespoonHaldi ( Turmeric)
- 1 tablespoon of lime or lemon juice
- ½ Tea spoon Hing ( its great preservative)
Heat oil (Mustard or vegetable oil) add all ingredients except lime or lemon. Fry till brown – be careful these don’t get burnt.
Add apples and stir fry – do not over cook otherwise will become sabzi.
Add lemon juice
Cool and bottle.
Bottle and store it for a month if you have patience – well matured apple achar has its unique taste.
Photo and Recipe by Karam Bharij
Karam Bharij is born in Kenya with family linage from 1854 migration from North India. Lives in UK, avid photographer and off beat traveller meeting local people to take photos and sample their cuisines. He loves cooking various cuisines and purveyor of fine wines. He is a proponent of fusion cooking, lending Indian culinary art to various cuisines.