Aachar is a spicy Indian pickle. It varies from place to place, from home to home. If you check your local Indian grocery you can see a multitude made from almost everything that you can imagine. You will have heard, no doubt, of mango pickle or lime pickle — these are very popular. But take any ingredient of the plant variety and I guarantee that there is a pickle made from it.
Quince (our hard sometimes gritty, always sourish fruit) is not well known in India, as far as I can judge. The Indian Quince is quite a different fruit altogether.
Recently given a wealth of quinces, jam was made, and two batches of quince pickle. It is hot, sour, oily, bitter — that lovely combination of Ayurvedic tastes — and is sort of Punjabi in style.
You might also like to try Pickled Cumquats, Pickled Cumquats, or Ginger-Garlic Paste. Some others to try are Pickled Lemon Slices, Semi Dried Tomatoes with Pomegranate , Tomato and Chilli Jam, or Zucchini Pickles in Oil.
This recipe uses panch phoron, a mixture of 5 different spices. I prefer to make my own spice mixture rather than purchase it – you can adjust the proportions of spices in your own mixture.
The pickles take up to 3 weeks from beginning to eating time, but it is simple to make and a joy to eat. You are adding strong flavours — fenugreek, chilli etc — to semi dried quince pieces. The strong flavours mellow as the pickle matures, and the quince pieces plump up somewhat as they sit in the oil.
Cuisine: Indian in style
Prep time: 30 mins
Sitting Time: 2 – 3 weeks
Serves: a lot of people, depending how you use it
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric powder
1.5 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp chilli powder
when placing into jars
1 Tbsp fenugreek seeds
1 Tbsp ajwain
1 Tbsp Fennel Seeds
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tblspn brown mustard seeds
pinch asafoetida powder
1/2 – 1 Tbsp chilli powder
1.5 Tbs salt
1.5 cups mustard oil
Roast the chilli powder briefly on a dry pan.
There is no need to peel or core the quince, although you can core it if you prefer. Wash them well, removing any fur on the outside skin, and chop into bit sized pieces.
Sprinkle the quince with the chilli powder, turmeric powder and the 1.5 Tblspn salt. Toss the quinces in the spices and let sit overnight in a large bowl.
In the morning drain the quinces of any liquid that has emerged in the bottom of your bowl. Now you need to let the quinces dry out a little. Traditionally this is done in the sunshine and takes a couple of days. Bring the quince pieces in overnight.
If, like me, there is not sufficient sunshine you can do a number of things. Spread them thinly on a large dish or tray. Allow them to dry in a warm spot for a few day, tossing them every 6 or 8 hours so they get evenly dried.
Alternatively, you can place them in a very low oven and dry them for 4 – 6 hours. For one batch, I turned the oven on, kept the oven door open and placed the tray of quinces on the door of the oven to dry.
I have also used a dehydrator to dry them — this works very well. Choose your level of “doneness” – you just want to dry them a little, not too much, as they will not soften very much in the oil of the pickle.
When they are dried and ready to place into jars
Roast the fenugreek, nigella, fennel, mustard and cumin seeds on a dry pan, and grind them to a powder. Mix the powder with the quince chunks.
Dry roast the remaining chilli powder with the asafoetida and add to the quince pieces. (If you wish, you can taste a piece before you add more chilli powder – if it is hot enough, there is no need to add more.)
Add the remaining salt. Toss everything well.
Heat the mustard oil in a pan on the stove and then allow to cool until warm. Place the quince pieces and spices into jars and pour over the mustard oil. Screw on the lids and allow the jars to sit for 2 weeks before eating. Preferably they would sit in the sunshine, perhaps in a window. But failing that, place them in a warm place for that two weeks.
Eat a little as a side with Indian foods or with some dish that needs a spark.
The remaining oil in the jar, when the pickles are finished, makes a wonderful oil to use for vegetables and salads. I love to mix it with the tart juice from Pickled Cumquats, and the resulting dressing is simply amazing.