Monday, May 11, 2015

Mango pickles: the types

This question put up on the facebook asks me, "How many kinds of pickle you remember being made from mango?"
This makes me go back many, many years ago to my childhood, to those days when all we had to do was enjoy the fruits of my mother’s labor.
Summer it was and my mother all geared up for the big mango pickling season. Each region has its own way of preparing and naming the pickle.
Having her roots in the Visakhapatnam region, all our pickles were named avakaya…whatever be the vegetable used or whatever the method of preparation be.  And we made pickles with mango or lemon at the best. Didn’t go beyond that. We at Rourkela, a cosmopolitan town, had the fortune of mixing and making friends with people originating from all over India. And the best part of it was, being away from AP, all Telugus stood united in all that we did. There was a rich exchange of culture, including recipes from different regions. But the recipes for pickles were seldom sought. They simply made it for each other. So we ended up having ginger, drumstick, brinjal, and cauliflower pickle from our Telugu friends...not to speak about other pickles we got from our friends from other parts of the country.
When it came to preparing the pickle, my mother had a rich repertoire of recipes.
The easiest of them all was ‘Pachi Avakaya’ or the raw pickle, named so because of the fact that it wasn’t put out to dry in the sun. Mango cut into about 1” by 1’ pieces and mixed with mustard powder, chilli powder, turmeric and methi seeds…sometimes, garlic...all these then dunked in lot of mustard or sesame seed oil.
The next was ‘Endu Avakaya.’ Mango was cut into four pieces along its length, mixed with the same powders as pachi avakaya and let to soak in it for 3-4 days. After that it each piece was wiped and set out to dry in the sun. Come evening, it was put back into the mixture to get moist and absorb all the flavors once again. Next morning, the same process was repeated till all the mixture of powders was absorbed. Of course, many of the dried mango pieces would disappear as we kids would keep eating those deliciously dried mango pieces rich with the absorbed masalas. After this, the long mango pieces would be cut into 1’ x 1’ pieces and stored. The sun-dried pieces of mango with its sour-sweet taste have always remained a family favorite.

The third one I recall was the kayaki-kaya…meaning the mango pickle prepared with a whole, uncut mango. Each mango was slit with a plus mark on the top, ensuring that the cut doesn’t reach the bottom of the mango and all the same masalas as above stuffed into each. These mangoes are allowed to rest for 2-3 days and then put out to dry in the sun. This process continued till all the moisture was absorbed into the mangoes. At the time of a meal, the mango was cut into pieces and served. The ‘oota’ or the thin oily masala mixture that oozed from these mangoes was much sought…to be mixed with hot rice and eaten contentedly.
Then there was mamidikaya koru. This was made by grating the mangoes. The mangoes were all grated, spread on a sheet and set to dry out in the sun. 2-3 days of hot sun was enough to dry them out. Later they were brought in, and mixed with fried methi powder and mirchi powder. Jaggery syrup was prepared and added to this mixture. This was then garnished with fried mustard seeds and red, dry mirchi and aesofetdia.
But before any of these processes were started, there was an eagerness to taste the fresh mango of the season and mother would cut mangoes into small pieces to make temporary avakaya with it. Cutting them small enabled them to get soft quicker and have us have a go at it.
All these pickles used to be stored in long, big jars and required quantities were transferred into smaller jars for regular use. The big jars were all considered ‘Madi’ items…to be touched only after a bath and never randomly at any time.

Am not sure how much of this culture I have been able to transfer to the next generation…of how much they realize the sanctity of making them all religiously and laboriously at home, year after year.
 I have the convenience of using all ready-made powders and make just the mamidkaya koru and Pachi avakaya. Some where guilt hangs…that I don’t work as hard as my mother did and that I deprive my children of eating so many varieties. They get to eat only when they visit ammamma (grandmother) :(
Also refer to my previous post on the actual making of the pickle.