Thursday, April 30, 2015

Gujarati Chundo, Methambo and Katki Kairi My family recipes for your summer Mango Pickling

Summer has begun, the branches of mango trees everywhere are drooping low, pregnant with ripening mangoes. The heat has risen and everything has mellowed and as I give in to summer’s reveries and reminisce., I had my first bite of Mango for this season yesterday. Mango season always conjures up a burst of vivid memories. The succulent flesh of juicy alphonsos cut into petals, that first exquisite bite... sticky mango stained fingers and the fragrance of this voluptuous fruit permeating the nascent heat of summer in my kitchen. 

Mangoes are one of the most favoured ingredients for Pickling in India and every regional cuisine in India has a typical recipe for Achaar or Pickle. In this illustration I have captured the steps. The mangoes are first cut into chunks and mixed with salt and turmeric. They are then dried in the sun before they are pickled with choice spices and oil.

But Mango season for me, brings an annual ritual. Mango pickling. The Mango pickle has been part of every stage of my life. From my earliest memories of eating a piece of Mango Chunda and the kind of epiphany that dawned on my taste buds from the frenzied explosion of sweet, sour, heat and salt. To the musical chatter of the women in my family as they busied themselves with making mango pickles, my paternal grandmother presiding over the work. Lining up the finished works (yes, like art), ceramic or glass jars of mango pickles in myriad hues and flavors in Moti Mummys Kothar. My not so cleverly planned capers to pilfer pickles that always ended disastrously with turmeric stains giving us away. Boarding school years when that jar of pickle alliviated bouts of homesickness. Friendships forged on sessions of bonding over pickle with puckered faces and finger licking. Dating (my husband) our romance accompanied by the discovery of new pickles and flavors made by my future mother in law. Marriage, a new home, an entire frontier of new pickles conjured up by the new women in my life. Motherhood, and watching my son taste his first Heeng ka Achaar and now performing the yearly ritual of pickling mangoes to become part of my children’s memories.
           
I recall some of my favorite mango pickles I grew up eating. My paternal grandmother was Gujarati and known to lay almost 90 types of pickle in her prime! These include classics like Chundo, a hot and sweet grated raw Rajapuri Mango pickle with the consistency of marmalade, thick and chunky with grated slivers of mango. Murrabbo and Davra (a berry pickled in brine) are my other favorites. My maternal grandmother on the other hand was Kutchi and not as prolific with pickling but she had her own version of the Murabbo and her Chundo was the best I had ever tasted.

There is an astonishing range of pickles available in India, so astonishing that a mango pickle of the South will taste totally different from one of the North although the same fruit is being pickled (there will probably also be a few hundred types in between). However while there are as many varieties of pickles as there are dialects in this country - mainly due to the variation in the spices, oils, souring/sweetening agents and treatments - there is also uniformity in this diversity. A uniformity that lies in the liberal use of spices, not necessarily to add fiery heat but to contribute flavour and a diversity that comes from the variety, quantities and nature of the spices used from region to region. The hot parts of south India use cooling spices like Mustard, Curry leaves and Asafetida, while the colder North favors warming spices like Cloves, Pepper and  Nigella. These spices also play an additional role of being medicinal in nature; some like Ginger, Asafetida, and Turmeric are added for their digestive properties while others are added for specific reasons like raw Garlic for circulatory ailments or jangled nerves and Black pepper to stimulate the appetite. The oil used as a base also varies - with Sesame or Gingelly oil common to the south and Mustard oil preferred in the North – as does the acidifying agent – Lime juice, tamarind, curd or lime juice or a combination of these in the South and “Circa” or Vinegar in the North, and the sweetener - with Jaggery favored in the south and Sugar in the north.

Mango pickles flavor life’s memories much like they flavor our foods. Bouquets of texture, taste and aromas, they make moments worth savoring. Here are a few of my family's recipes for Gujarati Mango Pickles from the chapter on my Nani in A Pinch of This, A Handful of That. I have also added in the recipe for Katki, an almost instant small batch pickle you can make and eat immediately while the other pickles mature. I will leave you with wishes to have a beautiful summer ... 

Also if you want to check it our here is a recipe for my Ma-In-Laws Heeng Ka Achaar

Chundo
Chundo is a grated Mango pickle that is sun cooked. Sweet and hot in flavour, when made right it has the consistency of marmalade but with lots of grated slivers of mango in it. It spreads easily onto anything and can be used as a relish. The simple ingredients also make it ideal in the hotter summer months.

Makes 3 X 500 g jars; 
Time: 1 hour plus a few days in the sun

Ingredients
3 Rajapuri Mangoes peeled, grated and weighed
Sugar 1.5 times the volume of mango
1 tbsp / 15 g Turmeric
1 tbsp / 15 g Cumin seed
2 tbsp / 30 g Chilli powder
½ c Salt

Method
Peel and grate mangoes, mix with the salt and turmeric and leave for about half an hour. Now with clean hands take handfuls of the grated mango pulp and squeezing gently put the dried pulp into a clean steel vessel. Add  sugar to the squeezed mango and mix well. Tie a piece of muslin over the mouth of the vessel and place in the sun. Now, if you want to do it right and have the patience, then like my Nani leave your Chundo in the sun for a full 21 days. This means that it goes out every morning (after a stir) and comes in every night. You will know your pickle is done when the sugar has melted to a syrup and reaches a 1.5 - 2 string consistency. (to test, take a smidgen of syrup between your thumb and forefinger. When you pull them apart, they should form 1.5 to 2 threads). When done, add the chilli powder. Crush the cumin coarsely and add to pickle. Be careful not to touch a wet spoon to the pickle.

For those of you not wanting to wait for the pickle to cook in the sun there is an easier option, but be warned it will not taste the same. It is almost like the flavour of sunlight is captured in this pickle! Place a heavy bottomed pan on the fire and put mango-sugar mixture in it. Cook till all the water has evaporated, stirring to avoid sticking until it reaches 1.5 to 2 thread consistency. Add chilli powder while still hot.

Variations - this is something I like to do with a small batch - up the chilli quotient and add raisins.

There are a couple of variables you need to watch out for with Chundo.

1. MANGOES - In case your mangoes are not firm i.e. have begun to ripen, they would not do for Chundo. Rajapuri mangoes is what the recipe calls for, these are large mangoes that are used raw, sour and firm. The idea being that the pickle on being done should hold the form of the slivers it has been grated into. Between us ,Nani and I have created a volume based recipe that will work to help you start with smaller quantities the first time.
2. THE SUN - The Sun is the other variable with this recipe. The sun is very hot in India averaging 38-40 degree Celsius. It might not be as strong where you are so vary the amount of days you sun the Chundo accordingly. If it’s really hot where you are then 3-4 days will suffice, but if the intensity is lower the number of days will vary between 4-8 days.
3. CRYSTALLIZATION - If you notice that there is crystallization happening in your Chundo, then the sugar ratio is too high, you need to grate salt and some more mango and add it in. Keeping one mango spare might be a good idea for the duration. If you don't use it in the chutney then refer to the bottom of this recipe for another one you can use it up in!
4. ANTS – Chundo is an Ant Magnet! The muslin cloth is to keep them and other stuff that might get in, out.  If ants are a problem where you live take the extra precaution of placing the whole container of chundo in a basin of water.Don’t let water get into the pickle however. 

Methambo
To fill in the gap while the sun cooks your Chundo, try this. It is also a sort of consolation for those who have a riper mango and can’t do the Chundo. The addition of the spices and the use of jaggery make Methambo ideal in colder climates and it might be worth putting some down to give as presents in the winter or for Christmas.

Time: 2 hours; Makes 3-4 X 500g jars
Ingredients
1 Kg raw Mangoes, peeled and chopped fine
1 Kg Jaggery
3 tbsp /45 g Salt
2 tbsp / 30 g Turmeric powder 
1 tbsp / 30 ml Oil
1 tsp / 5 g Mustard seeds
8-10 /25g Boria chillies (the little round ones) 
2 tbsp / 30 g Coriander seeds
7-8 / 5 g Cloves
7-8 / 5 g Cinnamon sticks
60 g Raisins
40 g Salt

Method
Place mango in a large mixing bowl, apply salt and turmeric and set aside for an hour or so until the juices of the fruit are released. Then strain but do not press. Heat the oil in a large pan and add in the mustard and chillies. When the seeds splutter, add coriander seeds, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Wait for two seconds to allow aromas to develop and then add the mango pieces and the finely cut jaggery, stirring all the time on a slow flame. Cook Methambo until uniformly thick. Add the chilli powder just before you take it off the flame. On cooling the Methambo will thicken further.

Katki Kairi
If you would like to make a quick mango pickle try this one. It also uses up the little bits closer to the stone that can’t be grated. Amazing with hot Parathas!
Ingredients 

2 small raw mangoes
1 tbsp cold pressed mustard oil 
2 tsp crushed yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp crushed fenugreek
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/8 tsp Asafeotida
11/2 tsp red chilli (or more if want things spicy)
Salt to taste


Method

Finely chop the mangoes and set aside. 
Heat the mustard oil, allow to cool a little and add the Asafeotida, crushed Mustard, Fenugreek and salt. Mix well and allow to cool completely. 
Add red chilli and stir in thoroughly 
Add the finely chopped mangoes and stir in well
Allow to stand for a while and the pickle is ready to eat It will be good for 3-4 days if refrigerated.



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