The Fine Art of Pickling

Grandma did it so effortlessly – and with such delectable results – but we just can’t seem to get it right. We are talking about pickling. So many of us have tried our hand at it… and failed.

You know that wretched feeling when your pickle comes nowhere close to the delicious ones that grandma used to make? What makes it worse is that we can’t seem to understand what went wrong.

So here’s something to help you out: a step by step guide to getting pickling right.

First, pick the right time of year. In North India, the dry, hot summer months are perfect for pickling. The operative word here is “dry” – moisture is the bane of good pickling. It could ruin your pickle; worse still, it could cause mould formation on the pickle. Yuck!

Second: the fruits or vegetables that you wish to pickle should be thoroughly dried and cured with salt.

Third: Choose your oil carefully. In North Indian pickles, the preferred oil is mustard oil – and there’s a very good reason for that. Mustard oil is the secret ingredient. Really, it is! Mustard oil has strong antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Mustard oil is the preservative that keeps your pickle tasty and edible for a long, long time. In fact, mustard oil is chosen because it remains stable over an extended period of time. In some other parts of the country, people use sesame oil for much the same reason. However, the taste factor of pickles made in mustard oil is different – more tangy and pungent.

Fourthly, use sterile, non-reactive pickling jars for the process. Any ladles, spoons, etc that you use should also be dry and clean.

And last but not the least: Sunshine – Mother’s Nature’s contribution to your pickle. Cover the mouth of the pickling jar with clean, dry muslin tied around the neck of the jar. Now place the jar out in the hot bright sunshine. Before the sun sets, bring the jar indoors and store in a dry place. After sunning for four to five days, your pickle will be ready.

Well, that’s it – choose your ingredients carefully, especially the mustard oil, and painstakingly ensure that no moisture gets into your pickle… and all will be well.

Happy Pickling!

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