Indian food has a vast repertoire of recipes and the inspiring part is that vegetables fascinate us. So much is the endearment that we use vegetables and their versatility to make an amazing variety of pickles. Pickling means preserving the vegetable for a number of months taking great care not only while pickling but also while storing them hygienically.
There are rules to follow while pickling and then there are reasons behind these rules:
Use only young fresh seasonal vegetables
They should not have any damaged portions or tough stalks or rotting portions. Never try to chop off the blemished part and use the rest of the portion. Pickles made with such blemished vegetables do not have long shelf lives. Besides, seasonal vegetables and fruits taste better, are relatively cheap and are available in abundant quantities. Freshness is the key factor for good tasty pickles with a long shelf life.
Scrub and dry the vegetables well
Not only should the vegetables and fruits be scrubbed extremely well (to remove the dirt, grit and grime) but also be dried off thoroughly. This will prevent the setting in of bacterial activity later. Bacteria thrive on moist surfaces. And eventually any bacterial activity will cause spoilage.
Treat the vegetables with high moisture content first
Treating vegetables like beetroots, cucumbers, onions, cabbage, cauliflower and beans before pickling means these have to be immersed completely in a solution of brine for twenty four hours. Then rinsed, drained and dried thoroughly. Now when they are used for pickling, we are assured that the extra moisture has been absorbed and the pickle will stay good for a long time.
Use boiled water
When making water based pickles, ensure that you use only boiled water and not water taken directly from the tap. Clean boiled water will ensure that bacterial activity does not set in.
Prick whole fruit
Whole fruits are usually pricked all over with a fork before pickling. This ensures that the preservative agents seep into the core of the fruit, adding towards a longer shelf life.
Use good quality oil
Different oils are used in pickle making depending on the regional cuisine. The north of India uses mostly mustard oil whereas the southern states use sesame oil. The success of the pickle does not singularly depend on what oil is used but depends on the quality of all the ingredients (including oil, condiments and salt). All these ingredients should be of the best quality. The acidic nature of the marinade retards bacterial growth, while the oil acts as a preservative. Pickles can retain their freshness and flavour, so long as they do not come into contact with moisture. However, commercially made pickles use preservatives such as citric acid or sodium benzoate.
Refined oil is more popular than sesame oil for pickling
Refined oil is more suitable if the pickle has to be preserved for longer periods. If sesame oil is kept for too long it tends to get a rancid smell and taste. In all water based or liquid based pickles, the spicy liquid should stand a clear one inch above the solid particles. The same applies for oil based pickles. The extra oil on top will inhibit the growth of bacteria.
Salt and turmeric are all important
Salt and turmeric both act as preservatives. The quantities as specified in the recipes can be varied a little to suit the individual palate. However, go slow in changing the quantity of salt as with less salt the pickles tend to spoil. Turmeric adds a bit of attractive colour as well.