CHENNAI:Spicy, tangy, sweet or salty — what’s your favourite kind of pickle? VAISHALI VIJAYKUMAR visits the kitchens of senior citizens in the city and collects recipes and pickle-making memories
SR Booshanam, 81, homemaker
Booshanam has been making pickles for the last 30-40 years. Some of her specialties include mavadu, avakkai, kichdi, poondu, thakkali, and nellikai. “My mother passed on the art of pickle making to me. I excitedly wait for summer to make mango pickles and distribute it to my five children. Only one of my daughters has learned it from me,” shares the grandmother. Her family’s favourite is the mavadu. She stocks up dozens of raw mango, makes the pickle and keeps until the next season arrives. “When I got married, I had to shift to Mumbai. That was the toughest period because I missed my mother’s pickle and didn’t know how to make it. But once I started making, it became an annual ritual,” she explains. It took Booshanamabout six attempts to get the salt proportion right, which she says is the toughest part of the process. “In our childhood days, we had pickle was a staple because we didn’t have funds, and there were few options to buy vegetables. The minute you spot a mavadu piece, you automatically start to salivate,” she shares.
Mavadu: One kg Salt: 150 g, Chilli: 100 g Gingelly oil and sesame oil: For soaking
Take one kilo of mavadu, wash in water and wipe them dry. Add salt in the proportion of 8:1 and season it with 100 grams of chilli powder. Soak it in an enormous amount of sesame oil and gingelly oil. Garnish it with mustard. The process of absorbing the masala takes about 10-15 days. Once the pickle is ready it can be stocked up for a year. In days of yore, a few spoons of extra salt was added as a preservative, but now vinegar has replaced it. Similarly, you can cut the Kichdi fruit into two halves and fill it with salt. Dry it under the sun. Then dry it in a plastic cover for 15 days or until it becomes white and crispy.
Trivia: Ada manga is a half-cut raw mango. It is just ribbed with salt and stored. This works best
Padmini amma, 60, homemaker
What goes around comes around should ideally be the name of this garlic pickle recipe. Padmini amma, who has been living with schizophrenia, created this recipe by remaining very true to what was taught to her at the rehabilitation centre. Despite having a non-functional left arm, she made sure that she proved herself by making pickles. Padmini did not like being locked up inside four walls. She would visualise herself making pickles and used the crumpled sheet of paper to write notes. Padmini amma has also passed on the method to her friends but she prefers sticking to the exact measurement of ingredients.
Garlic: 1 kg
Mustard: 5 g
Turmeric: 5 g
Fenugreek: 10 g
Cumin powder: 10 g
Asafoetida: 5 g
Salt: 100 g
Jaggery: 80 g
Chilli powder: 80 g
Lemon juice: 1 tsp
● Peel the garlic and let it steam for 45 minutes in a steamer. Once the garlic has been steamed, cut it in small pieces or you could use it in its steamed form.
● Pour 1/2 litre gingelly oil in a pan and bring it to heat. Add five grams of mustard seeds to it. Then add the garlic and let it mix well in the oil for about five minutes. Add five grams of turmeric powder to it and mix well for two minutes. Add freshly ground 10 grams of cumin powder to it. Mix well for two minutes. Add 10 grams fenugreek powder and mix for two minutes. Add five grams of asafoetida powder and mix for two minutes. Add 30 grams of coriander powder. Mix all the ingredients in the pan for five minutes.
● Now add freshly extracted lemon juice (20 numbers). Add 100 grams salt to taste (salt can be altered as per requirement). Now add 80 grams chilli powder and mix well. Add 80 grams of jaggery. Mix well for five minutes till the aroma of the pickle rises.
Malathi Mani, 80, homemaker
Enthusiasm is another name for Malathi Mani or Malathi mami as she is fondly called. Her memories of this seasonal delicacy go back to her childhood days. “I grew up in a household that had bhajans very often. So anybody who attended it would ask for pickles while having their meal,” shares Malathi, who is very active on WhatsApp to clarify any recipe-related queries. She cannot forget the debut experience of making the avakkai pickle when she was 15 years old. A journey that started then continues till date. “Pickles are mandatory every summer. I make them for the year and give it to my sons and family. I also make some for my neighbours when they bring the fruits and request me to do so,” she shares. It’s been 40 years of pickle making. Her variety includes mango thokku, avakkai pickle and three varieties of lemon pickle. “Pickle and curd rice is a great combination for summer. Rich in Vitamin C, lemon pickle is also very healthy,” she says.
Lemon: 10 pieces Turmeric: 1 tsp
Chilli powder: 2 tsp Salt: 2 tsp
Gingelly oil: 100 g
Mustard: 1 tsp
Crushed red chillies: 15 pieces
Asafoetida: 1 spoon
Instructions: Take the lemons and cut them into small pieces. Apply turmeric, salt and gingelly oil. On the other side, heat the oil, add mustard, turmeric, chilli and salt. Saute and add it to the soaked lemon. Store it for two days and the pickle is ready. .
With full lemon: Take a full lemon and slit into four. Crush red chillies and keep them aside. Now stuff them into the four slits of lemon, add salt and store it for 15 days. The pickle will remain fresh for a year.
Instant pickle with lemon: Boil the lemon and strain the water. After squeezing the lemons cut them into pieces. Saute them with gingelly oil, turmeric, salt and asafoetida. Pickle will be instantly ready.
ETS Parthasarathy, 78, retired
Who said that pickle making is a woman’s job? “After my mother passed away, our daily food was rice and sambar podi with a few spoons of oil. My attempt at cooking started when I was three years old. I kept trying till I learned. The failed attempts did not stop me,” says Parthasarathy while showing us his freshly made thogayal (chutney). The taste of his pickle spread through word of mouth. His envious pickle list includes tomato and capsicum thokku, lemon pickle, mango thokku and vadu maanga. “This is beyond the stereotype that only women must cook. I also used to make puliyogare and mango thokku and take it to office for my colleagues. Even people from Delhi are fond of my pickles,” he explains. Apart from making pickle for his family, he ensures that he gives some to his neighbours, too.
Kudai mizhagai thokku
Chilli powder:100 g
Salt: 1 tsp
Blend tamarind, salt and tomato in a mixer. Cut capsicum into small pieces and keep it aside. Take lot of oil, add mustard, and saute it with capsicum. You can add ginger and chilli. Add the mixture along with capsicum and let it boil to a thick consistency. You can also add fenugreek and asafoetida. This can be an accompaniment for idli, chapathi, and curd rice. Make sure you scoop out the pickle from in a way that the oil on the surface is undisturbed. This prevents the pickle from getting spoilt early.