Friday, September 26, 2008

Not in a Pickle

Though summer is officially over and Fall has begun, I chanced upon some raw mangoes at the local Indian grocery store. My better half C enjoys eating pickles, especially homemade ones with his meals……so I decided to make a pickle I had not tasted in awhile.

As a child I clearly remember eating fresh Avakai urga made by my maternal grandma, Kamalamma. When I stumbled upon my early teens I was considered “old enough” to be in charge of chores and every year, like clockwork I was taken by Grandma on a trip to scour the markets for the rawest, sourest mangoes. it was my responsibility to sit with the vendor while they cut the mangoes as per grandma’s instruction and to make sure that: (1) hand selected mangoes were not substituted with lower quality ones and, (2) they did not short us on the quantity. For all my efforts, I would be rewarded with a meal at a local restaurant before having to lug the baskets home!

Kamalamma’s recipe calls for a fair amount of garlic and chickpeas in the pickle - unusual, as we did not consume much garlic in our home! However, I like this version of Avakai the best as it’s not summer until one eats cool Thayir sadam with urga....when one bites into a crunchy piece of garlic, or a salty chickpea and then sucks on a piece of the pickled mango - sour and spicy… enticing is the pickle that it only makes you want to eat more! I can still savour the flavor of Kamalamma's pickle and decided that I had to make my own version of that classic…….the easy way of course!

My Avakai Urga

Raw green mangoes – 4 large, about ½ lbs each (make sure the fruit is fairly hard to the touch – this means that it is still raw)
1 Cup small cloves of peeled garlic (cut large cloves into smaller pieces)
1 Cup dry chick peas soaked in water overnight
2 tbsp whole fenugreek seeds
2 tbsp rai na kuria, hulled and split mustard seeds
2 tsp asafoetida (heeng) powder
2 Cups Pickle Masala (by Swad, Bansi or Deep which is what I used)
1-1/2 Cups Salt (depending on how sour the fruit is, + if very sour, - if less)
2 Cups gingelly/ sesame seed oil (may be substituted with a good quality peanut oil)


Wash and completely dry the mangoes. Cut into 1 inch cubes (use a very SHARP large knife as cutting through the inner shell can be tough) discard the seeds. Transfer into a large mixing bowl.

Heat oil in a pan until smoking point, turn off the flame and allow it to cool. In the meanwhile drain the chickpeas and remove external moisture by allowing it to dry completely(on a paper towel). Clean the peeled garlic cloves as well and make sure that they are bone dry as well.

Add ¾ of the salt and ¾ of the pickle masala and stir it into the cut mangoes. Make sure that all pieces are evenly coated with the masala. Add the garlic, chickpeas, fenugreek seeds, rai na kuria, and the heeng powder. Mix well to ensure even distribution, now taste the masala mix ~ it should taste extra salty, spicy and pungent, if not add more quantities of both the salt and pickle masala(the salt and spices mellow with age). Take a clean container (zap it in the microwave for a minute or two, or clean the container with vinegar) and slowly ladle in the mango mixture. Top off with the cooled oil. Tap the sides of the container to remove any air pockets. Add more if oil if it does not cover the top of the pickle as this will help keep the pickle from spoiling. Too much oil? Don’t worry I will suggest ideas on what to do with left over pickle marinade/oil in another post (making sure you visit again).


Finally, the last part is a challenge for most people – including me…....allowing the pickle to rest/mature in the sun for a couple of days! When you cannot wait anymore, transfer small (?) quantities of the pickle from the big container into several smaller ones for distribution to family and friends and one for personal use. Keep the large container in the coolest part of the refrigerator until you need to replenish your daily dose, Enjoy!

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