Sunday, 20 September 2015
With their wheeled carts ladened with big jars of various pickled fruits and vegetables, the pickle sellers (or 'marchand confits' as we would call them) paint one of the most picturesque scenery of the Mauritian streets, bus stations, beaches or school yards. Like most Mauritians, kids and adults alike, I have an unwavering fondness for these mouthwatering local sour treats that make the eyelids tickle — green mangoes, pineapple, cucumbers, giant green olives, chayotes, ambarella fruit (finally I've been able to find the English name for this local fruit named 'fruit cythère') and jicama being among the most typical ones.
Among the many methods of food preservation, pickling is probably one of the oldest and widespread worldwide presented in variations from different cuisines and cultures. Vinegar, salt and oil along with various spices are the most common pickling mediums used depending on the type of pickle being made.
In Mauritius, the three most common methods of pickling are the
1. Indian style with spices and oil — called 'achar'
2. oil and vinegar mixture — used mostly for chilies
3. vinegar mixture — a more instant salad style pickle
The latter is used to preserve a variety of fruits and vegetables for a rather shorter period of time; these are eaten mostly as a snack. Pickled in this way, the fruits or veggies would have to be eaten within a few days.
Following on from the previous post where I talked a little bit about jicama (Chinese yam or 'patate/batate chinois' as it is locally known in Mauritius) and I promised to share the pickle preparation for it, here is one of the easiest method of pickling from the numerous ones out there. And you get to enjoy the pickles within a few hours or at most the next day. While the ratio of vinegar to water, sugar and salt may vary depending on personal preferences, the amounts listed in the recipe are the ones that I've found to be the most agreeable and reminiscent of the traditional pickles sold by the pickle sellers.
For even tastier pickles, if you happen to have the sun where you live, I suggest you place the filled jars in the sun to cure the fruits/vegetables for a few hours or up to a whole day before digging in. I can tell you, the exquisite aroma that will emanate upon opening the jar of pickles afterward, will instantly make your mouth water.
Chilies are optional in the pickle water but I like to add a few dried ones for a little kick. In any case, these pickles are almost always accompanied by crushed chili paste or powder.
The amounts listed below are calculated per 20 oz, 591 ml mason jars, fully packed with fruits/vegetables. Watch the recipe video.
Pickle water per 20 oz, 591 ml mason jars
200ml white vinegar
150 ml water (filtered, boiled and cooled for food safety)
1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons brown or Demerara sugar
1 tablespoon + 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Few dried red chilies (optional)
Fruits/Vegetables, yield three 20-oz/591 ml mason jars
1 green (or semi-ripe) mango
To make the pickling water, add all the ingredients together in a large measuring jug until all the sugar and salt are dissolved. Alternatively, you can bring the filtered water to a boil, then add in the sugar and salt. Stir until they are dissolved, then add the vinegar. Let this mixture completely cool before adding it to the fruits and vegetables.
Prepare the fruits/vegetables. Peel and cut/slice them into bite size pieces or a size that will fit through the mouth of the jar. Place all fruits and a few pieces of dried chilies (if using) in the jars. You may place the fruits or vegetables separately but I like to mix them so that their combined flavours will add another layer of taste and aroma to the pickling water.
Once filled, pour the pickling water to completely cover all the fruits/vegetables but leave a little space at the top. Place the lids on but do not overly tighten them as the fermentation will release some gases and the jar may either explode or will be very difficult to open afterward.
Leave the jars in the sun for a few hours or a whole day if you have the sun where you live. Otherwise, just leave them on the counter for at least 6 hours and preferably 24 hours before consuming. After 24 hours, transfer them to the refrigerator to keep them for longer (if they will last that long!)