How many of you love pickles?Almost ALL!Well I would say here that the Indian version of pickles are quite hot,pungent and spicy!The Western style of pickling revolves around preserving fruits and vegetables and the lovely process of canning and storing.Normally the pickles are stored in Vinegar and Olive Oil to enable shelf life.
But in India,we primarily deal with spice.Chilies,Coriander,Fenugreek go the same way to prepare one of the most sought after and universally liked pickle – the Red Chili Pickle.Its also called Lal Mirch Achaar in Hindi and is enjoyed with Indian Breads – Chappatis/Phulkas,Puris or Paranthas.Even with rice – Dal-rice and even South Indian curd rice.
Another thing important here is the Oil you use to make the pickles.In the North we use Mustard Oil like I used for Turmeric Pickle.It is used even for this delicious Red Chili Pickle.But South Indians use Sesame(Til) Oil in their Pickles.Living in Lucknow I saw my grand-mother prepare this pickle with Sesame Oil.She had the opinion(and of course the correct one) that South Indians could not stay without the famous Curd Rice.So if these pickles are made with Sesame Oil then it would be a wonderful accompaniment with almost any course.She was right.Our relatives flocked left.right and center to savor a taste of this pickle and even “ordered” her to make a batch for them as well.She made huge quantities which filled 2 jars and by the end of the year it was all gone!Mustard Oil is custom made for North Indian Courses.I normally divide the chili batches in 2 and make one part with Sesame Oil and another with Mustard Oil.
Here I am making the pickle with Sesame Oil as I already have a Mustard Oil batch from last year’s pickling.I used the standard measuring cups.
You need to get some very fine Red Chilies for this.This recipe is suited for approx 300 gms of Chilies.
Red Chili Pickle…
Preparation Time – 1 Week(includes sunning days)
Makes – Approx 500 gms pickle
Approx 300 gms Red Chilies(8-9)
3/4 cup Fenugreek seeds(methi)-50 gms
3/4 cup Coriander Seeds(Dhaniya)-50 gms
1/4 cup Fennel Seeds – saunf – 25 gms
1/3 cup Kalonji – Nigella Sativa – see link –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigella_sativa
2 cups salt
1/3 cup Turmeric powder(Haldi) – 25 gms
1/4 cup Chili Powder(Home made/store bought)
1/2 cup Dry Mango Powder(Khatai/Amchur) – 50 gms
Approx 1/2 liter Sesame/Mustard Oil
Arrange the Chilies on a plate and dry in the sun till they do not have any form of moisture on the surface.Wash a glass jar for storing the pickle and dry alongwith the Chilies.
For the filling:
Primarily we need to roast the spices and powder them one by one.So start with the Fenugreek seeds.In a non-stick pan,roast the seeds on medium heat.till they turn brownish-red.Keep aside on a steel/ceramic plate to come to room temperature.
Next roast the Coriander seeds till they attain a reddish hue as well.
Then begin on the Fennel seeds.Its not important to roast fennel,but if you want the pickle to have amazing smells of all spices then its recommended.Also it will remove any moisture from the Fennel.
Lastly roast the Kalonji. Cool everything to room temperature.
In a spice/coffee grinder again begin with the Fenugreek seeds first.Grind to a powder Add the Coriander seeds. Grind again.Now add the Fennel and Kalonji together.
Grind very well to form a semi-fine powder.The powder will not be fine as the Fennel and Kalonji will not grind fine.This is required for the natural taste of the spices to penetrate into the pickle. Empty this into a steel bowl or a vessel.Glass works well too.(Plastic and melamine not recommended as the spices may corrode the material)!Add the Chili powder,Turmeric powder and Dry Mango powder.Add Salt.
Mix very well.Keep this stored in an air-tight bottle for future use or make it then and there.Always keep this powder covered as the precious aromas and flavors of the spices dissipate while being exposed to open air!
Take it off heat and allow it to come to room temperature. Take some of the filling Masala on a plate.Fill spoonfuls of this Masala into the hollowed chilies.Fill each chili to the brim with the Masala and push the lid a little into the Masala itself to seal the chili.Keep arranging on a plate till you have all the chilies filled.
Filling the Chilies..
Put some of the masala in the glass jar as a “base” for the pickle.Start arranging the chilies gently onto the base of the jar.The bigger ones go at the bottom and the smaller ones at the top.
Arranging the Chilies in the bottle..
Sprinkle some masala on top of the chilies as well.Now when the oil has come to room temperature gently pour it into the jar over the chilies till all the masala including the chilies are covered.
The Chilies at the top should “float” in the oil.Leave to cool for a further 30 minutes covered by a cloth.Now this pickle has to be kept in the sun for a week in order to “naturally” mellow.Once kept for a week there would be more “depth” to the taste.Initially it would taste very spicy and normally we would not be able to consume it much.But once say after 3-4 months when the Amchur absorbs the fieriness of the Chilies it would transform into the most lipsmacking and delightful pickle blending and contrasting almost every dish!
While sunning the pickle,remove the plastic lid of the bottle and tie or secure a clean kitchen cloth over the rim of the bottle with a rubber band.Keep it in the sun for at least 4-5 hours per day.For places and cold countries where sunshine is restricted its advisable to keep the pickle near a fireplace or a heating unit.Do not keep it too near but ensure it gets proper heat.