Learning about fire

imageIndian pickles come in a jar, right? They are oily, usually spicier than I can handle and there’s a lot of salt. But making them? Not anything I’ve really thought about trying until today, when New Jersey canning aficionado invited her neighbour’s mother round to show us what to do. Shovhana showed up early in the afternoon, and within an hour we were sitting on two jars of red-brown tomato pickle, using cherry tomatoes straight from the back yard. Do I know what she did? No, not really. But I have a vague idea.

Main item was a tomato pickle, using a big bowl of cherry tomatoes from canning friend’s backyard. But it’s an art, not a science, and I’m not even going to guess at the quantities of everything we used.

To start, Shovhana washed the little tomatoes, then we dried them with paper towels, before blitzing them to pulp in the food processor. Tradition dictates days of sun drying at this stage, with salt I think. But to speed things up S cooked them down to mush, with a generous handful of salt and a large gob of pickle masala, an Indian spice mix that includes chilli, fenugreek and other stuff. She heated oil – about an inch of oil – in a frypan and then sizzled in 3 dried chillies, some brown mustard seeds, a handful of chana dal (chickpea halves),  a couple of pinches of asafoetida and a big spoon of tamarind. Hot oil went into tomato mush and she simmered the mess again until the oil separated out.

image Then we spooned the mix into a clean jar, which we covered with cheesecloth and left to dry for a few more days on a sunny windowsill.

Shovhana, who clearly usually cooks in much bigger quantities than we were offering, conceded that that big handful of salt she added may been excessive, so at her suggestion we blitzed some more tomatoes, and added them to the leftovers from the first jar to make a second, milder jar of pickles that doesn’t burn my lips the way the first batch does. I’m not a great fan of spicy food, and once it mellows, this could be rather nice.

Second item was similar to the first, except that it used salted, sun-cured lemons that canning buddy had prepared a while ago. No chana dal and a little less of the masala spice for a hot, spicy pickle with a lovely lemon tang. I’m sure Toronto’s Little India sells pickle masala. I can try this one at home.

And of course the whole house smelled of oil and curry spices. It probably still does.

 

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1 Comment »

  1. Pickle smell is gone 🙂
    And she estimated a kilo of tomatoes (not all cherry) for that initial batch. It was a mixing bowl’s worth. And we probably added half that much again to dilute it?

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