Tuesday, July 09, 2013
For the last 10 days I've been trying to manage my Health Issues---namely the Stomach Bug!!The one single thing that I actually do not like about The Monsoons is the Water problems.While we usually carry our own Water to most places, sometimes a lapse does occur--and then begins a hellish time---of feverish Indigestion!!Roughly 15 days back I began my Pickling--for thanks to my immobility earlier due to Osteoarthritis and Physiotherapy I had fallen behind because frankly the Heat and the activity would really tire me out--draining me of all Energy and the Will to actually accomplish the Tasks I had set myself.One of these is making both the Green Mango Spicy Pickle,the sweet,sour and spicy Pickle as well as the much loved Saffron scented sweet Preserves.Since childhood the Art of pickling has fascinated me.I remember both my Grandmas making their own Pickles--enough to last an entire year after distributing the surplus.The very precision required to do this had me completely bemused.In my early childhood Mummy'd recieve huge Parcels in June---a whole Variety of Pickles,Preserves and home made Condiments like Papads would be sent by Aaji,my maternal Grandma from Bombay and later Poona where my Aazoba built his Bungalow after his retirement.
I first saw Aaji making Pickles on a Vacation to Poona.She had a huge Tree shaded Yard or "Aangan" just outside the Kitchen door where she and her domestic help worked tirelessly---I watched fascinated--turning into a nuisance with my constant questions about anything and everything.While this would amuse and make her "Bais" laugh for these questions would be in Hindi--Aaji would be very hard pressed to reply since she spoke only broken Hindi--and would get frustrated at not finding the right words--and would then in desperation finally revert to her native Marathi--which created further questions because I understood her answers in part only!!Observing the annual rituals and the process though was fascinating.The drying of a huge supply of the yearly stock of various Grains,Pulses, Tamarind Pods,Spices in various proportions for making the entire year's supply of Spice Powders,Pickling Spices as well as drying the huge numbers of freshly rolled out Papads, Udid Dal Saandgeys , Mung Dal Vadies and boiled Rice or Potato Phenies for the religious period of 4 months called the "Chaatur Maas"--- when even Onion or Garlic was completely taboo!! Also being sunned for days were the huge Ceramic Jars for storing the Spices and Pickles in the huge " Kothichi Kholi" as the Larder was called.The most fascinating was the Pickling.The cleaning and cutting of the rock hard Green Mangoes and the subsequent smoking of the Sun cured Ceramic Jars was something I still do.The Ceramic Jars would washed out after being vigorously scrubbed clean 2-3 times.The mouths would then be tied with thin Muslin Cloths and these would be left to dry in the scorching hot Summer Sun every day till these were bone dry.Then tiny "Sigriees" or small Coal based fires would be lit--and sprinkled with Asafoetida. These Jars would be placed face down on these "Sigriees" and smoked for three days till thoroughly smoked and then capped and kept ready to receive their yearly stock of Goodies.For me those Parcels carrying all those Goodies sent by Aaji were like Ali Baba's Cave--I'd dance around impatiently while Daddy pried apart the Wooden Boards serving as Lids wanting say "Khul Jaa Sim Sim" !!
However a random comment by one of our envious neighbours about Mummy being lucky to have such an industrious and genorous mother sparked the need in Mummy to "show" the neighbour that if not better,she was at least as good as her mother---and Pickling became the order of the day!!Here I got my first taste of it--and promptly fell in love with the technique of doing it!!Despite her Ego, Mummy still needed Aaji's guidance--and didn't hesitate to ask for and instantly get it. Aaji wrote out step by step instructions of how to make the Pickling Spices or Masalas and various proportions needed for it .That was not all--she carefully measured and parcelled all the Spices like the coarse ground Mustard and Fenugreek Seeds and the special variety of Red Chilli Powder and even sized small rocks of Asafoetida needed for the process. The firm and rock hard Green Mangoes would need to be soaked in cold Water for a few hours to get the sticky sap and dirt off ,then wiped squeaky clean with a soft cloth---ensuring that no moisture was left behind.It was a hive of activity after that--Daddy sitting there with a clean old sheet spread around him cracking open the Green Mangoes with a Green Mango cutter--specially structured to cut through the firm Seed inside.The three of us clustered around---picking up the pieces of Mango,tempering this with a little Salt and Red Chilli Powder and then tucking into the tangy and spicy sourness---our teeth and palates reacting sharply to the taste!!
Mummy was busy with first measuring out then roasting the measured Spices slowly on a dry griddle to attain the perfect smoked crispness,then when cooled to room temprature getting the Cook to pound these out to a Powder before mixing this Powder with the measures of Spices sent by Aaji. The required amount of Oil would be boiled,allowed to cool a little and then seasoned with the Seasoning Spices before being left to cool to room temprature too.Then with some ceremony the assembling would begin--the huge Brass Cauldrons would be filled about three fourths of their capacity with the Fruit.One by One the Turmeric,Red Chilli Powder,Salt and the Pickling Spices would be added to it and then thoroughly mixed,tasted for Salt,covered with Lids and set aside.Finally the cooled Oil would be poured into these Pots,mixed well and set covered overnight for everything to gel together and mix well.Well the first Pickles were a treat----and Mummy being Mummy she needed the satisfaction of doing everything on her own to satisfy her Ego!!So there began a spate of Pickles---the North Indian variety that she made according to a Recipe she borrowed from one of our other neighbours--and many more.Gradually she honed her skills to such a degree that her Pickles were extremely sought after by all our friends in Chandigarh.
Today I live in Mumbai--a plus point in getting hold of all the authentic,traditional Ingredients I need locally.Yet I love to go through the paces of making my own Spice Powders instead of buying the ready made ones for the various Pickles--both Maharashtrian and North Indian,Sudhir loved this--he loved to eat the very basic and simple Meals on Rainy or cool Winter Sunday nights at times---consisting of a simple Dal,steamed Rice,Pickles and Papads--add just a drizzle of home made Ghee to the Dal and Rice--and Heaven is just a touch away!!Today though Sudhir is not there I still would like to continue with this--for though I myself rarely eat Pickles the enthusiastic response I get from those I gift it to truly warms the very cockles of my heart!!