The practice of pickling began in India… way back in 2030 BCE according to food historians. It developed quite naturally. Mustard grew freely in the Himalayan foothills and the oil extracted from its seeds was known to have preservative properties. So people used it to preserve fruits and vegetables during the cold Himalayan winters when food would be scarce – and that’s how pickling began.
Thousands of years later, the Roman Emperor Tiberius developed an immense liking for another vegetable (technically a fruit) that originated in the Himalayan foothills: Cucumbers. To transport them all the way to Rome, the cucumbers would be preserved in Mustard Oil – this probably makes cucumber pickle the first pickle to be exported by India!
Here’s the present day version of this ancient pickle. The ingredients that you will require are:
Cucumbers: 500 grams
Mustard Oil: 200 millilitres
Mustard Seeds (Rai): 50 grams
Garlic Cloves: 5
Green Chillies: 6
Dry Ginger Powder: Just a pinch
Salt: to taste
Wash, peel and cut the cucumbers into cubes.
Remove the stems of the green chillies. Wash and slit the green chillies vertically.
Grind the mustard seeds into a coarse paste.
Wash and sterilize a glass or porcelain pickling jar and wipe it dry. Make sure it is completely dry before you use it.
In a large bowl, mix the cucumber cubes, garlic cloves, green chillies, mustard seed paste, ginger powder and salt.
In a pan heat around 200 millilitres of water. Add the mixture of cucumber cubes and spices, and boil for a minute or so. Remove from the fire and let the contents cool down to room temperature. Strain any excess water out and let the cucumber and spices mixture dry. Transfer the contents to another (dry) bowl.
Add the Mustard Oil to the bowl and mix the contents thoroughly. This is a point that we always emphasize: the critical ingredient in the pickling process is cold-pressed Mustard Oil. This is the preservative that facilitates the pickling process and keeps the pickle fresh and healthy.
Carefully pour/transfer the contents into the pickling jar that you had sterilized and dried earlier. Cover the mouth of the jar with a clean, dry muslin cloth and tie it firmly with a cord around the neck of the jar. Put your jar out in the sun (ideally in a place like a terrace, a balcony or a window sill). Make sure that you bring the jar indoors at night to prevent moisture from setting in. Repeat this process for around one or two days.
Your traditional Cucumber Pickle is now ready. This pickle should be consumed quickly – it won’t last as long as regular pickles because there is a lot of moisture in it. Do remember, cucumbers are made up of around 96 percent of water. So go ahead and enjoy your Cucumber Pickle – fast!