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The Great Pickling Adventure


Usually, the hot summer sun in India slows you down… you feel listless and tired. As the mercury rises, the level of activity drops all across the country. But hey – there are some people who become extra active in the summertime: our mothers and grandmothers…. That’s because the harsh sun in the sky and the dry heat all around present a unique once-in-a-year opportunity: Pickling!

In their enthusiasm, these adventurous women experimented with various types of pickles – mango, cucumber, lemon, chilli, cauliflower, carrot, eggplant… the list goes on. And this experimentation wasn’t confined only to fruits and vegetables. In various parts of the country, people also pickled meats and prawns and shrimps and more! In fact, we shared one such recipe earlier – a delectable Mutton Achaar.

The ingredient common to all pickle recipes (especially those originating in North India) is Mustard Oil. There’s a very good reason for this – a reason that our moms and grandmas were well aware of: Mustard Oil has unique preservative properties. It also prevents moulds and pathogens from attacking the pickle and making it go bad. Your pickles remain edible for up to a year because of the Mustard Oil used as the pickling agent.

Some of the experiments with pickling are really interesting. In certain pockets of north India, the preservative properties of Mustard Oil were used to pickle… believe it or not… Mustard! Yes, this is a Mustard Seed Achaar made with Mustard Oil – here’s the recipe.

It’s an amazingly simple recipe. Here are the ingredients that you will require:

  1. Mustard Seeds (Rai): 100 grams

  2. Mustard Oil: 200 millilitres

  3. Mustard Powder: 1 tablespoon

  4. Sugar: 100 grams

  5. Salt: to taste


Wash the mustard seeds and put them out in the sun to dry. Make sure they are completely dry before you bring them in. However, if you are using hygienically packaged mustard seeds, you don’t need to wash them.

Wash and sterilize a glass or porcelain pickling jar and wipe it dry. Let it dry completely. Once again, make sure it’s completely dry… there should be no droplets of residual moisture.


In a pan, add the salt, sugar and mustard powder. Pour in around 250 millilitres of water. Place the pan on a Medium flame and bring the contents to a boil. Add the mustard seeds and let the contents simmer for around five minutes or so. Remove from the flame and let the contents cool down to room temperature.

Heat the Mustard Oil in a large pan on Medium heat till the oil reaches its smoking point. Let it cool down. Add the salt-sugar-mustard powder-mustard seeds mixture to the cooled oil. Mix well.

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. Place the jar in the sun (ideally outdoors in a place like a terrace, a balcony or a window sill). Remember to bring the jar indoors at night to prevent moisture from setting in. Repeat this process for around four to five days.

Your delicious Mustard Seed Achaar is now ready. This pickle should be consumed within a month or so – because some of the water that you used while making it may remain in the seeds. Nevertheless that won’t change how awesome this pickle tastes. Mustard Seeds pickled in Mustard Oil – that’s a double delight!

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