Shukno lonkar achar/stuffed red chili pickle/bharwan mirchi ki achar and the winner of the giveaway

DSC_0180Stop buying those fairness creams and throwing your money at beauty salons.  Instead, start eating pickles. Yes, you heard me right…pickles. Good old pickles. Apart from the nutritional benefits of pickles, they were considered to be a beauty aid in ancient times. Even Cleopatra attributed her beauty to a hearty diet of pickles. The most common vegetable pickled in ancient times was the cucumber. Cucumbers, native to India, were brought to the Tigris valley around 2030 BC, around which time the tradition of pickling was introduced.
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Pickles mean different things to different people. Depending on the country, it might be fish, cabbage, dill, cucumbers, lemons, chilis and the list goes on and on. In the era of sailing ships, when sailors sailed for months without ever seeing fresh produce, pickles were a lifesaver as the vinegar and the brine helped hundreds of seamen dying from scurvy. Amerigo Vespucci was a pickle trader and loaded hundreds of pickle barrels onto his ships before he headed out to explore the world. Even Christopher Columbus tried feeding pickles to his crew to save them from the ravage of scurvy; one theory holds that he brought the pickle eating culture to the New World.
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When I say pickles, Americans will think mostly of cucumbers or dills, in contrast to the mindboggling variety of pickles in India. Whereas in the West, vinegar and brine were commonly used as pickling agents, in India, spices, oil and salt are used instead, lending to a much broader range of flavors. Also, being a hot tropical country, we learnt how to make use of the natural sterilizing power of the sun’s rays to the full extent, by keeping pickle jars in the sun to kill the bacteria and prevent fungal growth. Great care is taken not to introduce any moisture as it can spoil the pickle even before a day of pickle making ends. First the vegetables or fruits will be washed, thoroughly cleaned and then laid on a piece of paper or clean fabric to air dry them. Then depending on the type of pickle, it will be either coated with spice, salt, oil or all of these and will be kept in the sun in a glass or porcelain jar covered with a dry and clean fabric tied tightly around the mouth. Here it will sit for weeks or months, as the myriad flavors of the spices and the natural goodness of the fruits or vegetables seep into each other. If the jars survive the naughty hands of kids yet to learn the virtues of patience, magical changes will transform the contents into mouthwateringly delicious pickles. You will know the pickles are ready when their beautiful aroma wafts through the house on the tails of a summer breeze, and the vegetables and fruits have changed color and surrendered to the oil, salt and spices.
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Anyway, cancel that salon appointment and start making your pickles. If they won’t make you the next Cleopatra, at least they will be a delicious addition to your meals (and then who wants to end up like Cleopatra anyway?). In case you were wondering, in my quest for eternal beauty and culinary bliss, this is what I have been doing all summer.

And now, I am excited to announce the winner of my first book giveaway. The winner is Joyita, and she will get copy of Marjorie Shaffer’s book Pepper (which I recently reviewed) and a cute jar of Extra Bold Tellicherry Peppers from India’s famed Malabar coast. The author and publisher are thrilled to see my review and I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. Thank you all for your participation and hopefully I’ll be doing many more giveaways in the future.

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I used random.org to chose the winner.

  1. Joyita
  2. Nik@ABrownTable
  3. pridreamcatcher
  4. Ballari Chatterjee
  5. masterminion
  6. Rachel
  7. Gouri
  8. Payal
  9. Sutapa Basu
  10. Sonia
  11. Bonny
  12. Chitrangada

Timestamp: 2013-08-05 03:25:32 UTC

Recipe:

I was inspired by Soma from eCurry to start with the pickle making venture and borrowed the addition of whole nijella seed idea from Harini’s blog.

Ingredients:
12-15 red hot fresh chili peppers (depending on the size you might need more or less).
A sterilized jar
A clean cotton fabric
Dry spatula
Cotton twine
Ample sunlight (yes, it’s very important)
Stuffing:
First:
Aamchur/dry mango powder: 1 tbsp.
Cumin: 1 tbsp.
Mustard: 1 tbsp.
Fenugreek: ½ tbsp.
Fennel: 1 tbsp.
Salt to taste
Mustard oil: enough to cover all the chili peppers
Dry roast cumin, fenugreek, fennel and mustard, cool and then grind to a fine powder.

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Second:
Aamchur/dry mango powder: 1 tbsp.
Cumin: 1 tbsp.
Fenugreek: ½ tbsp.
Fennel: 1 tbsp.
Ajwain/carom seeds: 1 tbsp.
Kalonji/Nijella seeds: 1 tbsp.
Black salt: 2 tbsp.
Red chili dry: 4-6 nos.
Hing/Asafetida: ¼ tsp.
Salt to taste
Mustard oil: enough to cover all the chili peppers
Dry roast cumin, fenugreek, fennel and ajwain, cool and then grind to a fine powder. Do not grind the nijella seeds. Check for the balance. If you need more salt or heat, you can add now.

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• Wash the chilis and then lay them flat on a tray or paper towel. Let them air dry overnight or for a day. You can keep them in the sun but be careful not to crinkle them, as it will be difficult to stuff them later. Be careful, there shouldn’t be any external moisture.
• Cut the top part and de-seed them with a small knife or a small spoon.
• Mix all the ingredients together except oil and hing.
• Stuff the chilis with the powder and then press with your finger to keep the stuffing in place.
• Place them in a dry sterilized jar. Try not to over crowd them.
• Heat enough mustard oil to cover the chilis in the jar. Do not burn the oil. Add hing (if using) and then let the oil come to room temperature.
• Pour the oil on the chili peppers and cover the jar with a clean cotton fabric. Tie the neck with a twine and put it in the sun for few weeks (depending on the sun, it might be ready in couple weeks).
• Stir in the pickle once in 3-4 days.
The first recipe gives the pickle a very mild taste but the second one is more complex and hotter in taste. So go for the one you will like.

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6 comments on “Shukno lonkar achar/stuffed red chili pickle/bharwan mirchi ki achar and the winner of the giveaway

  1. dolon says:

    I have been looking for this FOREVER. You are officially my favorite person now.

  2. Soma says:

    I am literally salivating:) That is what mirchi pickle does to me! Stunning photos and do enjoy the heat and the spice of these beauties. Thank you so much for the mention.

  3. Chitrangada says:

    Love the gorgeous pics.. a must say a red hot post it is.

  4. Gopa says:

    Ishhh! Ki prochondo jibhey jol asha ekta aachar!

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