Aam Ka Achar or Mango Pickle needs no introduction, it's one of the most popular pickles and found in most Indian homes.
Pickle making is an age old tradition of preserving food for a longer time, it is not only practiced in India but across the world. There are different methods and mediums of pickling, salt, oil and vinegar are the most commonly used mediums for the process of process of pickling along with herbs such as cinnamon, cloves, garlic and mustard. In India Pickles are commonly known as Achar and are made of a variety of fruits and vegetables,like mango, lemon, carrot, cauliflower, radish, chilies, ginger, garlic, onion, tomatoes and yes we even make pickles of Bamboo shoots as well. In some parts of India meat and fish is also preserved in the form of pickle and yes these equally spicy as the vegetarian versions.
Every family has its own recipe of pickles which is very carefully handed over to the next generation, My mom has been making pickles under the guidance of my grandmother for almost 40 years.Initially she used to assist my dadi (grandmom) but over the years she has mastered the family recipe and trust me there are no measurements its all done by andaz or approximation but the taste is still constant. By the way my mom always made pickles in batches and non were ever made of mangoes less than 10 - 15 kgs of mangoes, these were usually packed and given to my aunts and cousins while the visited us during summer vacations along with other homemade goodies. Well even I'm lucky to get these now:)
Pickle making is like a ritual in our home, starts with the age old tradition of drying the spices in sun and then grinding them at home, washing the barni (porcelain jars), sun drying them to ensure there is not a bit of moisture. All this starts immediately after holi when the sun is shining bright and nice. Freshly picked mangoes were soaked in water overnight, cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces and then the process of actually making the pickles would start.
As I said there are many ways of making mango pickle and the one which I am about to share is a easier and quicker version, the recipe shared in with 1 kg of Mangoes, which makes it easy to multiply to whatever quantity you want,
Mango, raw - 1 kg
Turmeric powder - 3 tablespoon
Red chili powder - 2-3 tablespoon
Yellow Mustard powder (Sarso) - 1/4th cup
Fennel seeds (Saunf) -2 tablespoon (pound it in a mortar and pestle)
Fenugreek seeds - 2 tablespoon
Nigella seeds (Kalonji) - 1 tablespoon
Asafoetida (Hing) - 1/4th teaspoon
Mustard oil - 1 cup
Salt - 1/3rd cup
Wash the mangoes thoroughly and soak them overnight, next morning remove them from the water and once again. Cut them carefully into bite sized pieces and keep them soaked in water until you finish cutting them all.
Once the mangoes are chopped, drain the water and spread them in a single layer over a clean cloth and let it dry in the sun for at least a day to get rid of excess moisture.
Once the mangoes have dried for a day transfer them into a large mixing bowl,(try using a steel, glass or plastic bowl). Add turmeric and salt, mix well and let it sit overnight.
Next morning you will notice that the mangoes have released a lot of water, don't worry as that is due to the salt we added, just mix well, tie a fine muslin cloth over it and place in a place where it receives ample sunlight. (If the mangoes get good sunlight then a day would be enough, else keep it for two days) You will notice that most of the water has dried up, the mangoes will start to get tender and the edges will start to curl.
At this stage, check for the salt, it should be on the higher side, if needed adjust accordingly. Once the slat level is fine add the mustard powder, red chili powder, Asafotieda,kalongi, and fenugreek seeds along with fennel seeds. (We usually pound the fennel seeds coarsely in a mortar and pestle). Mix well and add around 3-4 tablespoons of mustard oil, this should be enough to coat the mangoes with the spice powders. Tie a fine muslin over the mixing bowl and place it in Sunlight for 2-3 days. Use a clean spoon and mix the Achar 2-3 times a day while its placed outside in sunlight. Don't forget to keep it indoors in the evening.
On day three, transfer the achar into a clean Barni or glass jar, now pour the remaining mustard oil over the achar, ensuring that all the achar is immersed and there should be at least a centimeter of oil above the Achar.
Place the Barni or jar of Achar in a place where it receives sufficient sunlight at least for a week or 10 days. Over a period of 8-10 days the pickle will mature, the pungentness of the mustard oil will also mellow down, the herbs will release there aroma and oils and finally the pickle will gets its nice and vibrant orangish red colour and an irresistible flavor..
Enjoy your homemade Aam ka Achar with with Puris, Parathas, Daal Rice, Khichdi.
Traditionally we use mature raw mangoes, in India they are easily available as achar wale aam. These mangoes are fibrous and have a hard seed, which makesit difficult to cut by our regular kitchen knives, In our home we cut them with a sharp datri or baithi. However these days a lot of vendors cut and sell the mangoes, so its quite hassle free and if uo get the cut mangoes then just ensure you wash and soak them in water for 4-5 hours or overnight to get rid of any sap n dirt with ids stuck to the mangoes.
In case you plan to cut them at home, just be very careful and don't hurt your hands.
Pickles are usually high on salt as that's what preserves them along with oil for a longer duration, and since they are eaten in small quantities so don't worry much.
You can always adjust the quantity of chili to suite the taste of your family.
I have used Raw Mustard oil for this Achar, thats how it done in our home, we usually make the achar and let it mature for a month or two, during this period the raw taste of the mustard oil mellows down, however if u are not used to raw mustard oil then I suggest that once the achar is transferred into the jar you add mustard oil which has been heated previously and cooled to room temperature.
Pickles are usually made in large quantity,at our home its made to last for a year at least, so always transfer the pickle into a smaller glass container for everyday use.
Always ensure that the Achar in the main Baarni or jar is covered with oil, this increase the shelf life of the pickle.
My Dadi always insisted that the pickles be kept under the sun once the monsoons were over, this is done to ensure that the humidity during the rainy season doesn't spoil the Achar.
Last but not the least always use clean dry hands and spoons while handling the pickle, never let the lids open as a single drop of oil may ruin all your hard work.