My mom made the best Indian pickles in the world. Before she died, I transcribed some of her recipes (minimal as they were) onto my iPhone Notes. Unfortunately, when I bought a new phone, these files did not survive and now these recipes are nothing but a memory on my tongue. So I was delighted to come across some recipes on the website called Indian Simmer. I adapted and annotated the simplest one and used the last of my garden’s serranos to make a pickle you can prepare in just a few minutes and eat within a few hours.
- 250 gm chili peppers, any combination. I used a mix of red fresno and serrano peppers, but Thai bird peppers are traditional and much, much hotter.
- 4 tbs. brown mustard seeds, coarsely ground in a coffee grinder.
- Generous pinch of Asafoetida (Hing). Skip if you cannot find it, but this is like fish sauce and adds a lot of umami, although it would taste awful if you placed a pinch on your tongue.
- 5-6 tablespoon oil, preferably mustard oil (this oil really lends the distinct Indian pickle flavor, but swap with other unflavored oils if you have to). There should be enough oil to fully coat the peppers. This is the second preservative.
- Salt to taste (1 used 3 tsp- this acts as a preservative, so don’t skimp.
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- 1/2 tbs. Lemon juice
- 1 tsp. Turmeric powder
- Stem the chillies and pulse them in a food processor to get smallish pieces (this will only take a few pulses) . You can also cut these by hand which is traditional.
- Place the chillies in a medium sized bowl and add salt. Dry brine the chillies for 1/2 hour (or longer).
- You can drain the water from the chilies if you want to reduce the heat after the brining.
- In a small bowl, combine the ground mustard, asafetida, oil, salt, sugar, lemon juice and turmeric powder. Mix thoroughly.
- Toss the spice mix with the chillies.
- Taste and adjust the salt and lemon to taste.
- Transfer the pickles to a glass jar. You should probably sterilize the jar or run it through the dishwasher.
- Let the pickles sit on the counter for a day and then store in the fridge. These should keep for a long time.
- The pickles will taste better after a few days, although they can be used right away if you cannot wait.
- The pickles will also lose some of their heat over time.
- These pickles can be used as an accompaniment to any Indian meal, but are also great on buttered toast, on eggs, you name it!