Known for its extreme tanginess and sour taste, Indian pickles are a ready item in every household. Besides adding spice to the daily meal, the lingering taste of pickles leaves a good feeling even after consuming food.
The sub-continental pickles are made from a variety of vegetables and fruits that are finely chopped and marinated in brine or edible oils along with spices.
The most common South Asian pickles are made from mango and lime. But the taste and preparations differ based on in which region they are prepared for there are lot of cultural elements with local factors (sentiments) attached to making pickles.
Mostly, the elder women in a household make the ingredients like vegetables, raw fruits, spices, oil on a ready mode, besides selecting the right vessels for the preparation.
Usually, homemade pickles are prepared during summer and kept in the sun before storing them in porcelain jars (or containers) with airtight lids.
The high concentrations of salt, oil, and spices act as preservatives. But commercially made pickles use preservatives like citric acid and sodium benzoate.
Pickles have a strong regional connotation in India.
In Hindi, Urdu, Assamese, Bengali, and Punjabi, the pickle is called achaar.
In Tamil, the generic term is oorugaai while individual pickles may be addressed with other terms such as thokku or aavakai depending on their preparations.
In Telugu, Kannada and Tulu, pickles are called ooragaya / pachadi, uppinakaayi and uppad respectively.
In Malayalam it is known as uppillittuthu and each type of pickle has its own name such as maanga acharu for mango pickle and inji acharu for ginger pickle.
The Marathi, Konkani and Gujarati words for pickles are lonache, adgai and athanu respectively.
In spite of using the same main ingredients, pickles come in different flavours and textures across India due to variations in spices and the making procedure.
For example, a mango pickle in South India may taste quite differently from the one in North India.
While sesame oil is used in the South, mustard oil is preferred in the making of pickles in the North.
In the South, most vegetables are sun-dried with spices before making a thokku or pickle taking advantage of the hot and sunny days throughout the year.
The sun-drying preserves the vegetable along with the spices.
Commonly used spices include mustard, methi or the seeds of fenugreek, chilli powder, salt, asafoetida and turmeric.
Some households to quick the process cook the vegetables on stove top and additional preservatives like vinegar, sodium benzoate or citric acid are also used.
In Tamil Nadu and Andhra, maanga thoku or maavadu (mango pickle) and Aavaka oorgai are much sought after in the summer when the retail markets are flooded with mango varieties.
For the preservation in a mango pickle, castor oil is used giving it a unique taste. Another pickle from Tamil Nadu is narthangai made of unripe citrons cut into spirals and stuffed with salt.
Tamils sun-dry chillies stuffed with salted yogurt, making a dry condiment called mor molagai that is typically eaten with rice. Tender whole mango pickle is a traditional pickle recipe of Karnataka and it is preserved by dehydrating it with salt.
A special type of tender mango pickle is jeerige midi offers a refreshing aroma. South Indians also pickle fish as they have access to a long coastline. Karuvadu is made by salting and sun-drying various species of fish.
In Kerala, fish such as tuna and sardines are finely chopped and marinated in spices and later cooked on stovetop, resulting in meen achar.
Unripe mangoes, lemon, green chillies, gunda (cordia) and kerda are used in Gujarati cuisine for making pickles.
The Gujarati households prepare a variety of mango pickles: