Saturday, May 4, 2013

Our experiments with Mango Pickle

Our building is blessed with one lonely Mango tree. This tree remains unloved, neglected and forlorn for about 250 days a year. But, come April, it receives a lot of attention as it starts to fruit. The first sign of the approach of the mango season is the incessant coo-wee of the koels. Then, boys walking along the road throw stones to knock down the raw mango, some fruit fall on a neighbours car parked below the tree, screaming, allegations and chaos follows and soon it’s time to have the fruit picked. The fruit is then in the finest democratic traditions, distributed among the flat occupants. Our share was 40 raw mango this year.

The Mango washed and kept to dry

40 raw mango is a lot. It weighed in excess of 5 kilos. We wondered what to do with the fruit and after a short discussion we settled on a spicy mango pickle to be made from scratch by ourselves. No using readymade pickle masala. This was easier said than done. To make a pickle you need a recipe. We pored thru the several Indian food cookbooks we had and found nothing that came even close to being exciting. Then as a last resort I looked at the Time And Talents Club Recipe Book and found a pickle recipe that seemed very good. This was a recipe contributed by Mrs Bhicoo Manekshaw. Permit me to digress here. Unfortunately Mrs. Manekshaw passed away just a week or so before I saw her recipe. Mrs Manekshaw was the first Indian to have gone to Le Cordon Bleu all those years ago. She has authored several cookbooks which are reasonably good although very dated. But this recipe fit the bill. A good old recipe for Mango Pickle.

That done, the next task was to organise the ingredients. That was not difficult at all. A visit to Crawford Market and in one fell swoop all was bought. Next challenge getting the traditional pickle jars. You know the ones, made of clay with a white glaze on the bottom and a brown glazed top. We asked at Crawford Market, no one had them, finally Narayan of Narayan Stores - our cheese and foreign food provider - said he would ask his wife to get them for us. That was very sweet of him. Suddenly HRH the Queen of Kutch remembered that Senior Mrs Stonethrower had pickle jars. A phone call and job done. Now we were set.

That evening the great pickle session started. First up, washing the raw mango and drying them. Then the mangoes were cut. Laborious task but a good heavy sharp knife did the job effectively. Then we weighed out the various ingredients and started to process them as required. By the end we had made a huge amount of pickle. Two large jars were filled. Wax poured on the lids and the jars were put away for the pickle to mature.

The way we looked at it was that leaving cost of labour aside, how really cheap it was to make the pickle. The most expensive ingredients were the two liters of oil we used, which cost about Rs. 500/- The rest of the ingredients were no more than Rs. 200/-. So for a grand sum of Rs. 700/- we had about 7 kilos of pickle. Mind you we used good top quality oils and decent spices and we bought in retail. I cannot imagine how low costs must be for pickle manufacturers who buy lesser quality and buy in bulk therefore at even greater discounts. I must confess that making pickle necessarily means large quantities which in turn mean storage space. We all have space constraints so making such large quantities is a problem. The second problem is boredom. Imagine eating the same pickle for a year, I would be close to slitting my wrists. Lastly, pickle making involves complete attention at one time. Let me clarify. Raw mango remains raw for a short time. After that raw mango ripens and pickle goes all funny. Thus when the mango is raw you need to drop everything and make pickle.

We now have a whole lot of pickle. We bought 7 small glass jars and 1 big jar and filled the to the top. This resulted in just one pickle jar getting empty. We still have a whole pickle jar to go. These 7 jars get distributed to friends and well wishers.

All in all I must say it was great fun. Most importantly, the pickle turned out good, very good, as HRH the Queen pronounced, as good as `Bahar ka pickle’ and that is high praise.

Being fully enthused by the result, we scratched our heads thing of a label to put onto the jars. HRH the Queen of Kutch thought of a name and designed a label. Many hours were spent on this. Now the jars look good and ready to go.

The elevators in the building are now buzzing with people dashing up and down delivering their versions of mango condiments to each other. The Seafarer and his wife have sent us Mango Murabba [a sweet mango pickle] the Bankers wife has sent us some Avakkai [an Kerala style hot mango pickle] she has made. How utterly charming! How utterly madhyam vargi if you know what I mean!!! But, honestly, this whole exercise and the exchanging has been great fun.

I am giving you the recipe. I have tried to simplify the recipe by breaking it down in processes. Do give it a shot if you can get raw mango. Two words of warning. Firstly, the pickle is oily. You need the oil to keep the pickle from spoiling. Secondly, you need large vessels if are proposing to make this quantity so do ensure that you have them before embarking on the mission.

Lastly, thank you Mrs. Manekshaw. RIP.

Methianoo Mango Pickle


3 Kg firm fresh green raw mango. Washed, dried, deseeded and cut into pieces. You should have 3 kgs after removing the seed. So start with about 5 kgs.

315 grams normal table salt

125 grams dry hot red chilly broken into 1 inch pieces [after removing the stems, seeds can remain].

250 grams Fenugreek seeds [Methi dana]

2 heaped tablespoons Cumin Seeds [Jeera]

3 heaped teaspoons Turmeric Powder [Haldi]

15 grams Asafoetida [Hing powder]

125 grams Mustard Daal

1 liter Gingelly Oil [Til ka Tel or Sesame oil – not Chinese style]

1 Liter Mustard Oil [Rai ka Tel]

2 heaped tablespoons Mustard seeds [Rai]


Mixing the cool ingredients

In a really large vessel combine the salt and the cut mango. Add the Mustard Daal and mix everything well. The salt will act on the mango and a fair amount of water will be released. Do not worry, this is supposed to happen. Do not throw away the water. This will form the base of your pickle. Do this before you get onto the other processes so as to let the salt to act on the mango.

The cut mango in a large vessel

Mango with the salt

Mango salt and the Mustard Daal

Making the fried masala

Take a large Wok or Kadhai and heat a generous quantity of the Gingelly Oil. Add the Cumin Seeds first, then the Fenugreek, then the Asafoetida and then the Chilly. Stir this around and wait till the Chilly changes colour and becomes a shade or two darker. At this point switch off the flame and add the Turmeric powder. Stir and keep to cool.

Once cool, grind the fried ingredients to a coarse texture. You may have to do this in a couple of batches depending on your blender jar size. Use the oil to keep the blades turning. Do not add water!!

Frying the ingredients

Heating the Oils

Then, mix remaining Gingelly Oil and the Mustard Oil and heat them. They should heat to about 180 C or the temperature you would need to deep fry something. Once hot, add the 2 heaped tablespoons of Mustard Seeds and let them pop. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.

The Gingelly Oil and Mustard Oil

Final combination

In the vessel containing the mango, add the ground ingredients and the cooled oils and mix everything well. Now your pickle is ready for bottling.

The mixed pickle ready for bottling. Please see the colour of the oil and the mango. Its all pale


Place the pickle in wide mouth jars with reasonably secure lids. Ideally you should have pickle jars. If not the Yera glass jars with red lids are ideal. Fill each jar almost to the top. Please ensure that there is a layer of oil on top such that no fruit is exposed to the air. Keep jars away for 10 to 15 days. They should be kept away from light in a cupboard. No need to fridge them. Do not touch them, do not open them.

The pickle jars
After 10 – 15 days open one and you will see how the pickle has matured. The oil should have turned a lurid red and the mango will have softened. Have a bite of a mango piece. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done and have some Daal Rice or even Dahi Rice with lashing of pickle for lunch.

The pickle ready to eat. Out of the pickle jars into glass bottles. See the difference in colour

7 small and 1 large jar. This is the content of 1 big pickle jar. We have a whole jar to go.

Labeled and ready for distribution

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