Pickiling is considered an art form in itself in India. Here no meal is considered complete without a suitable pickle. I am sure you have a particular favourite. Want to know mine? It is the most common pickle, found in almost every household in the country. Any guesses? Yes, mango pickle or aam ka achaar. The tomato comes close but aah! the tanginess of the raw mango pickle is unparalleled.
The fiery amalgamation of tastes is sufficient to liven up any dish as dreary as it might be, wouldn’t you say?
Let us begin our journey into the aromatic and delicious world of pickles. Pickling is a process of preservation. In the West pickling is majorly done with the help of vinegar whereas we in this part of the world — South Asia — use edible oils with or in lieu of vinegar. Pickling a food gives it a long life and the addition of various spices to particular ingredients ensures a blast of taste in your mouth.
As is common amongst many inventions and innovations, this method of preservation was thought of to ensure availability of food during long travels undertaken via the sea as long as 4,000 years ago. Historical records show that salt pork and salt beef were commonly packed for sailors years before the steam engine was invented.
I don’t think there is any part of the world that does not include pickles in its fare. If we have achaar in India then in Arab countries there is mekhallel made with cucumber, cabbage, lemons and cauliflower. In Iran torshi, or pickle is, made with turnips, peppers, green olives and cauliflower among various other things.
In Central and Eastern Europe pickles are made with beetroot, green tomatoes, cabbage and celery. Here even fruit like plum are pickled. Russians pickle their eggplants after stuffing them with juliennes of carrot.
You must be familiar with Kimchi.
It has become a common fare served with Chinese dishes like Hakka noodles. You would be surprised to know that this Korean staple is made from cabbage, radish, garlic stems and many other ingredients.
In Philippines, they are fond of a pickle of green papaya, carrots and shallots seasoned with vinegar, salt and sugar. In Sicily, Italy, pickled eggplant and hot peppers are preferred. In Scandinavian countries pickled red garden beets and cucumber are important as condiments and are served with many traditional dishes.
It is interesting to know that in some parts of Latin America pickles or ‘curtidos’ are served cold as appetisers or as a side dish. Ceviches are pickled meat or sea food, which is quite popular in countries like Peru and Eucador.
A pickled cucumber known as gherkin in the UK is a popular accompaniment.
In many parts of Southern America pig’s feet, chicken eggs and those of quail are pickled and consumed. Weird ehh?
Well there are more interesting facts associated with pickles.
There is a popular tradition followed in the US called the Christmas pickle. The tradition, believed to have its origin in the 19th century, goes like this, an ornament in the shape of a pickle is hidden in the Christmas tree as a Christmas decoration and on Christmas morning, the child to find it first receives an extra present from Santa.
A village in the Michigan area in the United States — Berrien Springs — is known as the Christmas pickle capital of the world due to its record cucumber production.
Pickled in common English language usage refers to a state of confusion.
Pickles is also the name of a popular comic strip and its cartoonist Brian Crane won this year’s prestigious Reuben Award given to the Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year by the National Cartoonists Society.