Is modern life complicated for no apparent reason? I think so. There can be a dozen variety of salt! Something as basic and simple as salt found in the supermarket next door comes in as many as 6 varieties. Sea salt, coarse sea salt, kosher salt, table salt, iodized salt, gourmet salt..gosh!I am flabbergasted.Years ago I was researching on the sales of vanilla ice cream and I found at least a dozen varieties as well..vegan, vegetarian,french vanilla, vanilla, extra creamy vanilla, home-made vanilla,all natural, organic, raw etc. For a minute I started thinking that my years of learning economics where every theory starts with the assumption of homogeneous goods, was just a big joke. What! homogeneous products? you must be kidding me! I cannot find as much as a simple pack of salt or pick up a box of vanilla ice cream without much thinking. After these many years of shopping I am on the way to shopping-nirvana, I believe I can read the labels, understand the ingredient list and decipher the bombardment of so called 'information' on the box.
The next question that comes to mind is the length of the ingredient list, some goes on for ever. One vanilla ice cream had a list of ten ingredients where as I make excellent vanilla ice cream at home using as little as 4 ingredients. Indeed we have complicated our lives beyond need, beyond our imagination. It is funny too. When ever I ask Honey to pick up something from the supermarket and send him with as detailed a list as possible, he still gets lost, calling up time and again for more information, for there are so many options to choose from. Indeed I have stopped shopping at a regular supermarket and started buying more and more at our local price club. They offer only one or two options. If I want vanilla ice cream, there probably will be just one brand, one variety. Salt yes, may be two brands, two variety, still much better than to navigate the aisle filled with twenty brands and a dozen variety.
Actually this problem of variety has such a great consequence with respect to my current post. Pickles are something we all love and make with a great deal of gusto. I always make mine using my grandmother's recipe. I have followed the same recipe but used different variety of salts to end up with perfectly distinct results. There is no way we can have a perfect pickles recipe without having mentioned the variety and brand of salt used. This is where my grouse start from :( If there were fewer variety of salts that were more consistent in taste, pickling would have been much easier.But then that is not to be and General mills, Kraft, Unilever and P&G each wants us to see at least one variety of salt that they sell in our pantry taking the number to at least four in each kitchen . (not that they all sell salt, just for the sake of argument!) Sadly a chunky proportion of the four will end up in the dustbin after months of sitting idly in the pantry. But who cares, as long as they get us to buy their stuff, the General mills, Kraft, Unilever and P&Gs are happy. In fact they did be happier if we brought their stuff and threw it straight to the dustbin but returned to buy more of it. Come on, how fast can the 'Fast Moving Consumer Goods' move? We cannot be buying more than one tube of toothpaste, or one pound of plain old salt each month. So here comes variety. The more the variety, the more we want to buy and the more we add to their bottom line-top lines. Grr...I hate it, more so when my pickles do not turn out the way it is intended...
Thankfully this turned out alright and here we are, we will need,
Lemons 2.5 lbs
Bitter gourd 1 lb
Green Chillies 1/2 lb
Salt 1.5 cups (Morton Koshar salt)
Dried red chillies 20-25
Mustard seeds 1 tsp +1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds 2 tsp
Peanut oil 1/4 cup
Hing a generous dash.
- Wash, preferably using warm water the jar to be used in pickling. Air dry it overnight.
- Wash the vegetables and wipe it dry using a fresh and clean kitchen towel. Allow it to air dry for a few hours.
- On a clean and dry cutting board, chop each lemon into 6 or 8s, the bitter gourd into 1/4" thick rounds. The green chillies can be left whole or can be slit lengthwise into two.
- Take the jar, make sure it is thoroughly dry. Place a bed of about 2 tsp of salt at the bottom. Place a layer of chopped lemons followed by another tsp or so of salt,followed by the bitter gourd and then salt.
- Repeat the layering, throwing in the chillies in between. After using up all the vegetables, finish with more salt on top. Cover the jar and set it aside in a cool dry place.
- After 2-3 days the vegetables would have shrunk. Open the jar and stir the whole mixture using a wooden spoon. Cover and set it aside for another 3-4 days.
- 3-4 days later, toast the dried chillies, 1 tsp of mustard and fenugreek seeks on a hot skillet one after the other and allow it to cool down completely. Grind it in a coffee grinder till the spices are coarse and fragrant. Set it aside.
- Prepare the Oggarane, heat the oil, throw the remaining mustard seeds and the hing. Once the spices stop sizzling, remove from heat and allow it to cool down completely.
- Once the oil is cold, open the jar of pickles and throw in the ground spices and the pour in the cold seasoned oil. Stir using a wooden spoon. Set it aside for 3-4 days.
- Every 3-4 days stir the pickles using a wooden spoon, till the vegetables are cured and has attained the desired texture. I prefer mine to still have a bite, so I cure it for 2-3 weeks. If you like your pickles to fall apart, I would say may be 2-3 months is a good time.
- The pickles can also be refrigerated at this stage and once refrigerated, the pickles need not be stirred. But it is absolutely essential that we use a dry spoon every time we dish out the pickles.
P.S: Sunny boy loves his pickles even with his pasta. "Khara! Amma Khara" he would say between gulps of water and goes back to eating his pickles.