Fermentation To Sun-Drying, 7 Popular Indian Pickling Methods

Pickles hold a special place in Indian cuisine, adding a burst of tangy flavours and spicy notes to meals. The art of pickling, or achar-making, is deeply rooted in Indian culinary traditions, allowing families to preserve the flavours of seasonal fruits and vegetables and enjoy them all year round. In this article, we will embark on a journey into the world of DIY pickles in India, unravelling the methods, and techniques, and providing examples of these delectable condiments.

What is Pickling?

Pickling is a preservation technique that involves immersing fruits or vegetables in a mixture of salt, spices, and oil or vinegar. This process not only extends the shelf life of the product but also enhances its taste by infusing it with a medley of flavours. In India, pickles are known for their robust and tangy profiles, making them an integral part of meals and a perfect accompaniment to rice, roti (Indian bread), and curries.

Methods and Techniques:

Sun-Drying Method:

One of the traditional methods of pickling in India involves sun-drying the fruits or vegetables before adding them to the pickle mixture. This process helps remove excess moisture, intensifying the flavours and enhancing the shelf life of the pickle. Mango slices, lemon wedges, and chilli peppers are commonly sun-dried before being used in pickles.

Oil-Based Pickles:

Oil-based pickles are a popular variety in Indian cuisine. In this method, the fruits or vegetables are mixed with a blend of spices and then submerged in oil. Mustard oil is commonly used due to its distinct flavour and antimicrobial properties, which aid in preserving the pickle. The oil acts as a barrier, preventing spoilage and enhancing the overall taste of the pickle.

Vinegar-Based Pickles:

Vinegar-based pickles are another variation, where the fruits or vegetables are soaked in a mixture of vinegar, spices, and salt. Vinegar acts as a natural preservative and imparts a tangy flavour to the pickles. This method is particularly popular for pickling onions, beets, and cucumbers.

Sweet Pickling:

While Indian pickles are often known for their tangy and spicy flavours, sweet pickling offers a delightful alternative. This method involves using fruits like mangoes, lemons, or apples and combining them with sugar, spices, and vinegar. The mixture is simmered until the fruits soften and absorb the sweet and tangy syrup. Sweet pickles are a perfect accompaniment to snacks, desserts, or even as a topping for ice cream. Examples include Sweet Mango Pickles and Sweet Lemon Pickles.

Instant Sun-Drying:

To expedite the pickling process, an instant sun-drying technique can be employed. This method involves briefly sun-drying the fruits or vegetables before mixing them with spices and the pickling solution. The sun-drying step helps reduce the moisture content and enhances the flavours. Instant sun-drying is commonly used for pickling tomatoes, gooseberries, and green mangoes.

Fermentation Method:

Fermentation is another popular technique used for pickling in India. This method involves allowing the fruits or vegetables to undergo a natural fermentation, which creates a tangy and probiotic-rich pickle. A brine solution of salt and water is used to submerge the produce, and the mixture is left to ferment for several days or weeks, depending on the desired level of sourness. This method is commonly used for pickling cabbage (Sauerkraut) and mixed vegetables (Achari Mix).

Instant Pickling:

For those who crave quick results, instant pickling techniques come to the rescue. This method involves directly mixing the fruits or vegetables with spices, salt, vinegar or lemon juice. Unlike traditional pickling methods that require maturation, instant pickles can be enjoyed immediately. Instant pickling is a convenient option for pickling smaller quantities or for those who prefer a milder flavour. Examples include Instant Cucumber Pickles and Instant Carrot Pickles.

Examples of DIY Pickles in India:

Mango Pickle:

The mango pickle, or Aam ka Achar, is a quintessential Indian pickle enjoyed across the country. Raw mangoes are cut into pieces and mixed with spices like mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, red chilli powder, and salt. The mixture is then left to marinate, allowing the flavours to meld together. The resulting pickle is tangy, spicy, and bursting with the distinct flavour of mangoes.

Lemon Pickle:

Lemon pickle, or Nimbu ka Achar, is a tangy and zesty delight. Lemons are cut into wedges and marinated in a blend of spices, including mustard seeds, asafoetida, turmeric, and salt. The mixture is then left to mature, allowing the flavours to develop. The resulting pickle offers a burst of citrusy freshness with a hint of spiciness.

Chili Pickle:

Chilli pickle, or Mirchi ka Achar, adds a fiery punch to any meal. Green or red chilli peppers are slit and stuffed with a spice mixture, which typically includes fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, turmeric, asafoetida, and salt. The stuffed chillies are then preserved in oil, allowing the flavours to infuse and mellow over time. The pickle provides a fiery kick and a tantalizing flavour.

Garlic Pickle:

Garlic Pickle, or Lahsun ka Achar, is a pungent and flavorful pickle loved by garlic enthusiasts. Whole garlic cloves are pickled with a combination of spices, including mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, red chilli powder, and vinegar. The pickling process infuses the garlic cloves with aromatic flavours, resulting in a tangy and robust pickle that pairs well with Indian bread, rice, or curries.

Mixed Vegetable Pickle:

A mixed Vegetable Pickle, or Achari Mix, is a delightful medley of various vegetables pickled together. Carrots, cauliflower florets, green beans, and turnips are commonly used in this pickle. The vegetables are chopped into small pieces, and mixed with a blend of spices, such as fennel seeds, nigella seeds, mustard seeds, turmeric, and salt. The pickle is then preserved in oil or vinegar, allowing the flavours to meld and create a tantalizing combination of textures and tastes.

Gooseberry Pickle:

Gooseberry Pickle, or Amla Achar, showcases the tangy and nutritious Indian gooseberries. Gooseberries are lightly blanched, deseeded, and then pickled with a mixture of spices, including mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, asafoetida, turmeric, and salt. The resulting pickle offers a delightful balance of sourness and spiciness, packed with the goodness of vitamin C and antioxidants.

Tomato Pickle:

Tomato Pickle, or Tamatar ka Achar, is a tangy and savoury delight that highlights the flavours of ripe tomatoes. The tomatoes are diced and cooked with a blend of spices, including mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, red chilli powder, and asafoetida. The pickle is then preserved in oil, allowing the spices to infuse into the tomatoes, resulting in a lip-smacking accompaniment that adds a burst of tanginess to any meal.

Mixed Berry Pickle:

Mixed Berry Pickle combines the sweetness and tartness of various, such as strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, into a delightful medley. The berries are lightly cooked with a mixture of spices, including cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and vinegar. The resulting pickle offers a unique combination of flavours, combining the natural sweetness of the berries with the warmth of the spices.

Gongura Pickle:

Gongura Pickle, a speciality from the region of Andhra Pradesh, features the tangy leaves of the Gongura plant. The leaves are finely chopped and sautéed with a blend of spices, including mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, red chilli powder, and tamarind pulp. The pickle boasts a tangy and slightly sour taste, making it a perfect accompaniment to rice or roti.

The art of making DIY pickles in India encompasses a wide range of methods, techniques, and flavour profiles. From the tangy and spicy varieties to the sweet and savoury alternatives, there is a pickle for every palate. Embark on your pickling adventure, experiment with different combinations of ingredients and spices, and savour the joy of creating homemade pickles that add a burst of flavour to your meals and evoke the culinary traditions of India.