Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Andhra Aavakaaya ( Mango Pickle )

I have been facing two major challenges during this last few weeks while making pickles. One is determining the quantities of the ingredients relying on senses other than taste ( as I am still on fruit therapy ) and the second is to resist tasting them in the rustic fashion. In villages, when pickle is made and packed into containers, the leftover residue of the pickle in the original container is mixed with rice and fistfuls of this pickle rice is passed on to the household members. It is yummy!

Among all the pickles in Coastal Andhra, two pickles find a special place in the hearts of the village folk. Gongoora pickle (Indian sorrel leaves / sour greens ) is referred by poets as Andhra Matha meaning Mother of Andhra. The second one is Aavakaaya pickle ( mango pickle) . Aavakaaya can be called as the King of the Pickles. There are umpteen varieties in this pickle. Cut mango, full baby mango, jaggery mango, raw pulp mango, dried mango are some of the well known varieties.

The Tradition:
For someone hailing from coastal Andhra, heavenly bliss is eating Aavakaaya ( mango pickle) with cooked toor dal paste ( pigeon pea paste / Kandi Pappu cooked as Mudda Pappu ) in steaming rice with a generous sprinkling of Ghee( clarified butter). The pickle has a special place in the hearts of the people and woven intricately into the social fabric.
In villages, making mango pickle is a social event involving most of the household, domestic helpers and neighbors. Planning starts at least a few weeks in advance with procuring the right variety of chillies and making them into powder, gingelly oil and paying advance amount to reserve fixed number of mangoes from specific trees, the fruits of which have proved over the years to retain the sour taste and hardness till the next season. On the D-day, mangoes are plucked fresh, washed, cloth dried and the muscular male member of the family or strongest of male domestic helpers take the responsibility of cutting the mangoes into uniform sized pieces with a huge cutter. While the womenfolk busy themselves in readying the spices and powders, the children sit around the mango cutter envying him and scrape the wafer thin layer on the stone of the mango with steel spoons. All the ingredients are mixed with the pieces immediately. The shelf life of the pickle, especially the mango pieces retaining the taste and hardness, is a matter of prestige to the women folk and a subject matter of discussion amongst them. The reputation of a housewife as an excellent pickle maker can be made or marred by the way mango pickle turns out to be.

Me living in a city lacks all this excitement where everything is available over the shelf. However, I wanted to re-live at least part of this excitement. Last year, I looked at the recipe and it appeared very simple and easy. I tried making the pickle with the confidence of a pro and bit the dust or rather mustard powder. So this year I have armed myself with the recipe from my mother, learnt the nuances of which ingredient should go in first and the process and set myself to make a big hot splash. I have succeeded fairly well in the Endeavour.

Here are the recipes for Aavakaaya ( cut mango) and Magai ( dried mango) pickles.

Avakaaya ( cut Mango Pickle ) :

12 medium size raw sour mangoes
250 gms mustard powder
250 gms red chili powder ( to be increased if chilly powder is not hot enough to be fiery)
500 gms crystal salt ( powdered)
150 gms fenugreek seeds powder
250 gms garlic ( paste)
250 gms peeled garlic flakes1 kg sesame seed oil ( gingelly oil)

Choose the mangoes carefully. They have to be fully mature, yet raw and green, fibrous and very sour to taste. The mango that is very fibrous will withstand pickling without going soft till the next season.

Leave the raw mangoes in water for 10 minutes and dry them with a clean cloth.
Slice each of the mangoes vertically in half in such a way that the hard stone in the inside of the mango is also cut into two parts, with each part firm on the two halves.
Remove the seed. Scrape the wafer thin layer attached to the stone with a steel spoon.
Cut each half of the sliced mango into 4 to 5 pieces. Each and every piece should contain the stone without which the piece gets softened in no time after pickled.
Clean the cut pieces with dry cloth.
Transfer the cleaned pieces to a basin.
Sprinkle two tea spoons of turmeric powder on the pieces and mix with hand. The hand should be completely dry and the same hand should continue the other processes. Lot of different hands will spoil the pickle.
Pour half of the oil on the pieces and mix well with hand. It is very essential to mix the pieces with oil first before adding any other ingredients. This will help the pieces to retain the hardness for a long time.
Mix the powdered salt with the pieces.
Mix the mustard powder, red chili powder, garlic paste and fenugreek seeds powder together in another container. Add half of the remaining oil to the powders and mix to a consistency that can be held in a fist.
Mix the paste well with the mango pieces.
Add the remaining oil to the pieces and mix well.
Cover the basin firmly with a lid. If the basin used for mixing doesn’t have a proper lid, transfer the contents to a porcelain jar or a clean plastic container with a firm lid. Tie a neat thick cloth over it and store it in a cool dark shelf.
Open the lid after three to four days, mix well and taste it. The quantity of salt and chilly powder needed in the pickle differ depending on several factors. Add salt / chilly powder if necessary but be cautious in the quantity. The added quantities should be small to only tweak the taste and not alter completely. Those who want to add garlic flakes can do so now.
Transfer the contents to galss / plastic porcelain jars. .
For those who are making this delicacy for the first time, here are a few tips.
1. Keep ready a reasonably big ceramic jar or a plastic container with a proper lid. Clean and dry thoroughly.
2. Mangoes must be cleaned and dried properly before cutting. The pieces too need to be cleaned with a dry cloth but never washed.
3. Let one person do all the mixing. That person should wash and keep the hands dry. No damp object should be allowed to touch the ingredients at any stage.
4. On day one of mixing, oil may not be visible but on the third day one can notice oil floating above the surface of the pickle. If oil has not covered the pickle completely and floating, add a little bit more oil and mix well just before transferring to smaller containers.

Magai Pickle ( Dried Mango pickle)

This pickle is also usually made along with the cut mango pickle.

12 medium size raw sour mangoes
150 gms mustard powder
250 gms red chili powder
300 gms crystal salt ( powdered)
100 gms fenugreek seeds powder
250 gms garlic ( paste)
2 tbsp turmeric powder
500 gms husked sesame seed ( gingelly) oil for seasoning.

Place the mangoes in the water for 10 minutes. Dry them thoroughly with a cloth.
Peel the outer layer of the mango.
Cut them into thin flat slices of an inch wide and two inches long. The inner stone of the mango should be left out.
Mix the pieces with half of salt and turmeric powder.
Place the mix in a plastic container with lid / air tight ceramic jar and let it marinade for a day and night. When mixed with salt mango pieces ooze water.
On the second day morning, squeeze with your fist the pieces of the water and spread on a plate / thin cloth. Sun dry the pieces until the dampness disappears. Since the pickle is made in mid-Summer, 5 to 6 hours of drying will do. (don't let the pieces become rock harden).
Once dried add the remaining salt into the watery sap in the container along with red chili powder, fenugreek powder, garlic paste and mustard powder. Now add the dried mango slices to this mix.
Heat sesame seed oil for seasoning.
Add 10 dry red chillies, 2 tsp mustard seed, 2 tsp fenugreek seed, 10 garlic flakes and a fistful of curry leaves. Allow the oil to cool and mix into the pickle.
Store in a ceramic jar / glass / plastic container. Shelf life is more than a year.