It was a sweltering hot afternoon when I reached my mom’s home in Chennai. I was exhausted, my throat parched and my clothes soaking in sweat. In the dead of summer, my appetite almost always seems to diminish. But well you know how moms seldom agree to this. “You’ve got to eat something otherwise you would fall sick”, she said. “At least eat some curd rice. I have made fresh lemon pickle”. Ah! The South Indian in me came out totally.
I was already drooling over the tanginess of the pickle. I agreed to eat curd rice, just for the yellow lemon pickle!
Aren’t we a pickle nation? I mean just look at the variance in the pickles across the country. Some sour, some sweet, some dry and some others a bit gooey! Yet without this pickle on our table, a meal sure does seem incomplete. I have been fortunate enough to do a bit of traveling across the length and breadth of India. And despite a few commonalities in the ingredients, each and every region carries a uniqueness in its taste. Take for instance the all-time favourite mango pickle. The finely cut “mangai curry” from the Palaghat region of Kerala carries a distinct flavor of roasted fenugreek seeds and til oil. On the other hand is the Haryanvi mango pickle cut in a larger size, a lot drier, with carom seeds and mustard oil. And both are finger licking good!!!!!
The process of pickle making may seem to be a bit tedious and time consuming. But trust me, be patient here and what you get would be simply delicious, lasting for the next couple of seasons. Summer though is the best time to make pickles. It is a sort of ritual in many households. From picking the perfect fruit or vegetable, to sun drying them and then letting it soak in the oil and spices. They are then transferred to air tight jars and stacked away in dark corners of the home. Over the years, this grand ritual seems to have disappeared, with plenty of commercially made pickles available in stores. Pickles are available online too with portals such as “Place of Origin”.
As I sat down on the couch post lunch, I asked my mom for her lemon pickle recipe. She grinned- it indicated she was happy that I had intentions of making it, rather than picking up a bottle from the store. The store bought ones surely lack the rustic flavors and characteristics of home-made pickles. She quickly rummaged through an old brown box, and came back with a diary dating back to the year 1974. It had faded pages with curled edges and the ink smudged at places. Yet it held the greatest treasures of life. My grandmother’s recipes passed on by mouth to my mother, who meticulously noted down every bit of it. My mom reminisced her childhood days when her mom would make these tangy pickles and stack them away in dark corners of the kitchen. That is why I love these “vintage” recipes. Tucked away in little scrolls of papers, in old diaries, they are a reminder of the love our ancestors have passed on generation after generation.
So next time that pickle tickles your palette, give it a thought. Whose love lies hidden in that jar?