Time for tasty, tangy, ticklish mango pickle

Time for tasty, tangy, ticklish mango pickle

Pickles have been around for thousands of years. The process of making is the patent of Indians and the process is as ancient as our civilization

The best use of raw mangoes in every summer season is to make a tangy, spicy mango pickle. The yummy fruit has high fiber, zero cholesterol and nutrient content. It is a versatile fruit and is consumable as raw, pickle, jam, sherbat and an ingredient in various culinary cuisine. The raw mangoes are one of the most adored fruits in summer. In a number of households around the country, it is time that all other souring agents take a back seat and the King of fruits occupies the front seat whether consumed in the form of juicy fruit or converted and consumed as a pickle.

Pickles have been around for thousands of years. The process of making is the patent of Indians and the process is as ancient as our civilization. People first started salting and curing food in brines to preserve it for long journeys on foot that took many days to reach a particular destination. The mango pickle, generally known as Avakaya in the twin Telugu states is the most popular pickle which is the proud invention of Telugu people. Basically, it originated from Delta districts of Andhra Pradesh. The Arabs before the advent of Islam traded spices and pickles with ‘Andhras’. The Dutch and Portuguese in the 15th century encouraged Telugu people to prepare the Avakaya for export to Western countries. Avakaya is indubitably, the king of pickles. Once any one tastes this pickle, they would not be able to resist it in future.

Raw mangoes ready for pickle making are in the market now and the sight of them brings to mind and memory thoughts of a multitude of pleasant memories and excitement that we had as children. The tangy fruit drizzled with chilli, powder and salt hits us with the childhood nostalgia given, it is one of the most relished foods during summer. Traditionally the season that celebrates the raw mangoes is from April to end of May. As the heat kicks in, it is time to make the hot, chilli laden pickle or avakaya. The fruit loses its tangy, sour taste and is disqualified for pickle after one or two showers. Making of avakaya over a period of time has become very easy as the raw material required is easily available in the market. A day’s effort sees you through the year. But making of pickle is an emotion, nostalgia and excitement is writ large on the faces, and the mention of it brings rushes of childhood ‘pickle’ memories that connects people through generations and states.

The preparation for pickle making usually started much before the raw mangoes were bought from the market. The dark red big chillies known as Warangal mirapakayalu, mustard, fenugreek seeds and turmeric were bought in large quantity and were left for drying in the back yard for three days. Every day morning my grandmother insisted that it was our duty to carry them to the back yard holding the cloth tight, on which they were dried, and spread it for drying in the hot Sun. Before the Sunset they were brought back again in the similar way. This parade continued for three days before they were ground to a fine powder. Grinding was not that simple. It had its own fancy and entertainment. It was done in a huge traditional wet grind stone permanently placed in the back yard. After drying, women who were experts in pounding were called after a week’s advance booking (being the season and in demand). A wooden mortar (called rokali in Telugu) and a pestle, a common man’s grinder (still used in villages) was used for making a fine powder of all the dried material separately one after the other. Before the commencement of the exciting job the women removed the dried stalks or the pedicle of the chillies so that they don’t lose their pungent taste. Before the pounding commenced the women protected their ears, their nose and the mouth with a white cloth. Their head too was totally covered with a cloth. It was a sight that cannot be forgotten ever. The pounding was done quite musically and rhythmically. As the process was going on we children had lot of excitement in running in and out of the house doing nothing, disturbing their serious work and were quite often being yelled at. By evening, before the Sunset the look of the entire raw material changed and the whole area was turned into a mini pickle factory. The huge porcelain jars, used for storing the pickle, simultaneously were brought down from the attic, landing being carried out very smoothly by passing them through two or three strong, efficient hands, without any damage to the jars. The containers were washed thoroughly and dried in the Sun. Along with the jars huge oil cans were also deported from the attic. Specially pressed gingelly oil was bought from the regular oil merchant for this purpose. The next day early morning, on my grandmother’s instructions my parents, with huge empty bags, were ready to make the pilgrimage on a cycle rikshaw, to Mozam-Jahi Market, near Nampally railway station, 10 km away from my house to buy raw mangoes suitable for the tasty pickle. The vegetable market bustling with people, as early as 5,30 am, my father holding empty gunny bags with long, sleepy face following my mother where ever she went was a hilarious sight to imagine. The best raw mangoes were picked up early morning, as the sun-simmers, the best disappear with the moving crowd. While buying them my parents were told to make sure that the mangoes were not soggy and gave off their distinct tart smell and also, to make sure that they were from the same tree. I wonder how could someone vouch for the lineage of the fruit! I believe that the flavour, smell and shape of the mango differs according to the variety and the tree.

Once the mangoes were home the second phase of the ritual was followed without any time being wasted. The mangoes were emptied into a huge, really huge brass vessel filled with water. They were thoroughly washed and wiped with a soft white cloth, invariably it used to be my grandmother’s old saree safely kept aside for this purpose. In the mean- time my brother was sent to fetch the cutter. The man walked in at the exact allotted time holding a huge sharp cutter. The mangoes were cut into medium sized pieces approximately 2x2cm using strong special sharp cutter in swift strokes, so as not to structurally damage the pieces. The pieces were wiped clean and dry with an old sterilized cotton sari, which again had to be my grandma’s. The process of mixing the pieces with the ground masala, storage and serving was considered almost a sacred ritual. We were almost shooed away from there. The mixture takes at least 2 weeks to be ready to eat but—care was being taken to mix the contents with a big ladle to turn over the mango pieces, once in two days to ensure a uniform marinade. But we children could never wait for such a long time as the newly made pickle had a unique taste altogether and it tasted heavenly. Its no wonder that people have put avakaya on a pedestal for its taste and colour. The pickle is a staple in Indian diet and every home has a jar of it stashed away.

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