Tuesday, November 6, 2012

IHCC: Relishes, Chutneys and Pickles

Now, Indian pickles are something that took me a bit of getting used to. When I first tried them in restaurants, I thought they tasted like shoe polish. Yuck! But then I learned to eat them in tiny bits. My husband likes to chop up whatever pickle is on offer and mix it into his food. I tend to put a spoonful on the side and take a tiny bit with each bite. Pickles are usually salty, but they add a zing of special flavor.

At the beginning of the year, we visited the Indian/Pakistani food shop on our old turf in Amstelveen and impulse-bought a jar of green chili pickle. My oh my, did that turn into a favorite! But, just before the Madhur Jaffrey challenge started, the hall-full jar, along with a jar of Dijon mustard, took a leap from the refrigerator door and smashed to the floor. The mustard can be easily replaced, but not the wonderful pickle.

Well, I thought, this would be a very good opportunity to make my own pickle, something I've never tried before. When I searched all my Indian cookbooks, I found remarkably few pickle recipes at all. But, there in World-of-the_East Vegetarian Cooking was Pickled Green Chilies (WofE, p367), sounding like just what I wanted. This went directly onto my make-me-soon list. I asked a friend visiting from the Netherlands to bring me the 1/4 pound of green chilies I'd need to make a half recipe. Knowing that the recipe calls for the jar of ripening pickle to sit in the sun, and sun is very limited at this time of year while we're racing toward the winder solstice in the midst of an unseasonal grey, rainy spell, I decided to get this going as soon as possible. With the "Relishes, Chutneys and Pickles" theme coming up, and a sunny day in the forecast, I started on my pickle.

A (half) recipe calls for 1/4 pound, or about 1 well-packed cup) of fresh hot green chilies. As I weighed out my chilies, they largely filled a 2-cup measure, not packed, but more than I would have expected. (The unused chilies got added to the stash in the freezer.)

The chilies are sliced, then mixed with ground black mustard seeds, salt, cayenne, and minced ginger.

This was mixed with mustard oil that had been brought to the smoking point then cooled, jarred, and set in the sun. (As the mustard oil neared the smoke point, the color changed from very yellow to almost clear. This feature wasn't mentioned in the recipe, but is probably a good way to know that it's time to pay some good attention to what's happening.)

After a day in the sun, it's time add some lemon juice and shake it up. The pickle spends more time (seven days in winter) in a warm sunny spot, which was just a bit difficult because it's mostly been cool and grey of late.

Finally it was time to try my pickle. And the consensus was ... not a success. It is very hot and tastes strongly of mustard. But otherwise, there's not much subtle going on. I might add more lemon juice and consider stirring in some more spices, but I don't hold out much hope for this one. Disappointing, since this is my first real failure with a Madhur Jaffrey recipe, and she's been a favorite author for years.

(In the background there, is Spicy Cucumber Wedges (Indian Cooking, p172), a quick and easy sort of salad that I make fairly often when a meal needs a bit of fresh crunch.)

Meanwhile, having in mind that pickle week was next week, I found another pickle recipe to try. So, I was a bit non-plussed to find that this week is pickle week. But there's now a jar of Lime Pickle (Flavours of India, p211) waiting patiently on the shelf to be tried next week.

This post is shared with this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs.


  1. Sorry the pickles didn't work, but I think it is really cool that you gave it a try. Hope the next batch is what you are after!

  2. What a shame that your pickle was disappointing. Given that chillies are $99 a kilo here, I would be devastated by such a failure. Hope your lime pickle is more successful.

  3. Oh no - sorry you weren't happy with your pickle. I do love the strong flavours of all Indian pickles, but my family often finds them way too strong.

  4. I'm sorry the recipe wasn't up to your expectations...but thank you so much for your honesty! Hot chiles can be so similar, or so very different, and there's not much way to tell without tasting. Great post!!