What are the basic ingredients for Achars and Murrabas?
Everything that you need for pickle making can be found in your local shop and around your own kitchen. Choose seasonal fruits and vegetables. Follow the recipes correctly, using nothing more complicated by way of equipment than a non-corrosive pan and a stainless steel ladle for mixing.
a. Fresh fruits and vegetables : Although pickles and murabbas are an excellent way to make use of seasonal produce, they should never be regarded as a way of salvaging mouldy or rotten fruits and vegetables. The ingredients used should always be of the best possible quality. Even a bad piece of fruit or vegetable included in the pickle can cause it to deteriorate.
b. Oil : Oil, when used in pickles, acts as a preservative. It forms a top covering layer which prevents the micro-organisms in the air from coming into contact with the food i.e. the pickled ingredient. So always ensure that the oil forms a covering layer on the surface of the pickle to prevent spoilage.
Mustard oil is popularly used in all parts of Northern and many parts of western India. Gingelly or sesame (til) oil is used for South Indian pickles. Mustard oil or “sarson ka tel “ as its known, gives pickles their characteristic taste and flavour. You can use any oil you prefer, but I would strongly suggest that you can use the oil specified in the recipe.
Refined oil is used for most instant pickle recipes.
c. Vinegar : The use of adequate vinegar ensures an acidic medium. This is not favourable for the growth of micro-organisms which cause the food to spoil or “go off”. Vinegar is a sharp tasting liquid containing dilute acetic acid (at least 5% to 7%). All bottled vinegars meet this requirement and are suitable for pickling.
d. Salt : As part of the pickling process, vegetables are salted either by sprinkling with salt or immersed in brine (salt water solution). Salting draws water out of the vegetables and thus prevents water from being available for bacterial growth.
Salting also slightly toughens the vegetables, which helps to retain their crisp texture as in the recipe of crunchy vegetable pickle, page….
Any non-iodized salt is suitable for pickling. Avoid iodized table salt, which may darken the colours of some fruits and vegetables. Coarse sea salt is particularly suitable. It is usually dried on a pan to remove any excess moisture and then powdered, except for wet brine pickles where it can be used just as it is.
e. Sugar : Sugar acts both as a flavourer and a preservative. Granulated sugar is suited for most recipes, unless specified otherwise.
SUGAR SYRUP CONSISTENCIES FOR SWEET PICKLES AND MURABBAS
1. Place the sugar in a clean heavy bottomed pan. Use good quality sugar and the specified quantities of water.
2. Dissolve the sugar over medium heat while stirring continuously.
3. Allow the syrup along with the fruits to thicken slightly until coats the back of a spoon and trickles down in a thick stream. All this stage, touch it with your index finger and press it between your thumb and index finger. On parting, one small string should form. This is syrup of 1 string consistency. This syrup consistency is used when raw fruits are cooked entirely in sugar syrup e.g. sweet and sour mango chutney, page… or pineapple and sultana chutney, page…
4. To make syrup of 2 or 3 string consistency, simmer the syrup for a little longer and on repeating the same test, you should be able to obtain a stronger thread that is also longer than that of the one string consistency. On cooling slightly, you can obtain 2 to 3 threads that stay firm for longer. This is used when steamed or cooked fruits are added to sugar syrup. The sugar syrup is cooked upto 2 to 3 string consistency as on cooling, the fruits leach out water, thus diluting the syrup e.g. kesar elaichi mango murabba, page…
f. Spices: Most pickles, chutneys and murabbas are flavoured with spices. Spices produce toxic effects on micro organisms and thus in certain cases act as a preservative. Split mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, asafoetida, chilli powder and turmeric are pickling spices that help in preservation in spicy pickles apart from flavouring when used in correct proportions. Whole cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, garlic, ginger etc. are used for flavouring sweet preserves or murabbas.
Spices, whether whole or ground, should always be fresh otherwise there is a tendency for them to taste stale or musty. It is a good idea to buy them in small quantities or store them refrigerated.