As a little girl, Sarita Kaur grew up in Quetta in Balochistan, Pakistan. She came to India long before Partition. In 1935 an earthquake caused widespread destruction across Quetta. Sarita’s home was partially destroyed – and her parents travelled to India… to join their extended family in Delhi. Since then, she has lived in Delhi.
She is now a nonagenarian. Her husband passed away many years ago. Her children (two daughters) are married and they live in Brussels. Time has taken its toll and Sarita has difficulty in remembering events from the past – but she has clear and warm memories of her childhood in Quetta. In particular, she vividly remembers a certain activity: Pickling.
She remembers how all the womenfolk would noisily gather, bustling with importance and a newfound sense of purpose. The chores were divided among her mother, aunts, grandmothers, cousins and the numerous women who worked in the palatial bungalow. The air was filled with the rich aroma of spices, freshly cut fruits and vegetables… and the pungent warm smell of Mustard Oil.
Back in those days, there were no fancy pickling jars made of glass and porcelain. Simple earthen pots were used. And the Mustard Oil came straight from the Kolhu in the backyard of the family home.
Even today – so many decades later – the taste of her favourite pickles makes Sarita’s face light up with joy. And it brings back a flood of wonderful memories. When the family moved to Delhi, her mother had brought with her a sheaf of papers with some of the recipes written on them. In today’s post, we share one of Sarita’s favourite recipes.
The ingredients that you will need are:
Lemons (Nimbu): 12
Raw Mango: 6
Carrots: 4, medium-sized
Mustard Oil: 2 litres
Mustard Seeds (Rai): 3 teaspoon
Green Chillies: 20
Curry Leaves: 24
Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: 1 teaspoon
Red Chilli Powder: 3 teaspoon
Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds: 3 teaspoon
Fennel (Saunf) Seeds: 2 teaspoon
Nigella (Kalonji) Seeds: 3 teaspoon
Salt: 5 tablespoon
Back in the good old days, Sarita’s family would grind turmeric and dried red chillies for the pickle. We have substituted these with turmeric powder and red chilli powder for convenience.
Cut the lemons into quarters. Put them out to dry.
Cut the mangoes into small pieces. Discard the seeds.
Cut the carrots into one-inch pieces.
Slit the green chillies lengthwise.
Peel the garlic and separate the cloves.
Wash and sterilize a large glass or porcelain pickling jar. Carefully wipe the jar dry. Make sure it is completely dry before you use it.
Heat the Mustard Oil in a large pan on a Medium flame till it reaches its smoking point. When the oil starts smoking add three cloves of garlic. After a couple of minutes switch the flame off and let the oil cool down to room temperature.
In a bowl, mix the remaining garlic cloves, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, red chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Add a little Mustard Oil and mix to create a paste.
Coat the lemon pieces, carrot pieces, mango pieces and slit green chillies with the spice paste. Put the coated pieces out in the sun for three days, till they are completely dry. Make sure the lemon and mango pieces are not exuding any juices.
Next, transfer the contents to your pickling jar. (Sarita would have insisted on an earthen pot – but we’ll go with the convenience of the glass or porcelain jar)
Pour the Mustard Oil into the jar till the lemon, mango and carrot pieces are completely covered. Ideally, the oil should be at least a centimetre above the pieces.
Cover the mouth of the jar with a piece of clean dry muslin cloth and tie it firmly with a cord. The cloth allows the pickle to breathe as it slowly dries. Put the jar out in the sun, bringing it in at night to protect it from moisture. Do this for around 15 days. Then remove the muslin cloth and close the jar with an airtight lid.
We don’t know what this pickle is called… so we’ll just call it Sarita’s Achaar. Anyway, what’s in a name? It’s delicious – and that’s all that really matters.