Author Notes: To be frank, I'm better off sending a sample of this classic South Indian Pickle to Food52 in lieu of posting the recipe for the contest.
It was a stroke of blue moon (super moon??) luck that I stumbled upon these beauties at my local grocery. Promptly got into a hyper selfish mode the first time I saw these tiny mangoes and bought all that I could, A week later they had fresh stock, after buying up 2 lbs more, I posted the location of the store on my Blog, only to have a gaggle of senior South Indian ladies make a beeline for the mangoes (& to think the cashier gave me a strange look when ringing me up!)
During the mango season in India, only the strongest fruits make it to a ripe stage from the cluster of 100s that bud out from the inflorescence. The rest of the baby fruits drop off at the first strong breeze. the best of these (i.e the unbruised ones ) are washed , dried, rubbed with sesame oil and then packed in salt. A week later the wrinkled fruits swim around in a brine generated by the liquid from the mangoes itself. The brine is then blended with toasted chile powder & crushed mustard to make a thick spicy sauce The mangoes are then added back. A few weeks of rest, and the end result is a delicious crunchy baby mango pickle and an equally delicious sauce that kicks up just about everything a couple of notches!
Although this is a classic recipe made in countless South Indian homes, I adapted this from Ammini Ramachandran's book 'grains greens and grated coconut' for the proportions and digressed to follow the technique that I learned from my mother. —Panfusine
Makes 100 mangoes & 3 cups of sauce
- 100 baby mangoes about 3/4 - 1 inch long
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 2 cups arbol chiles toasted and powdered
- 1 cup black mustard seeds, crushed
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons untoasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional)
- Wash & dry the baby mangoes. Place in a large ceramic bowl ( the white Corningware French baking dishes with the plastic lids work great). Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil & shake well so that the oil coats the mangoes. Add the salt and turmeric powder & shake so that the salt sticks to the oiled skin) Cover tightly. Shake the container a couple of time each day for about a week.The baby mangoes release their moisture and this combines with the salt to create its own flavored brine.
- At the end of about 2 weeks, there will be sufficient brine to incorporate into a spicy sauce that the mango will be preserved in. Drain off the brine into a blender jar. Combine the toasted arbol chile powder and the mustard powders and blend into an emulsion.
- Pour this sauce back onto the mangoes, taking care to coat the semi pickled mangoes entirely.Transfer the mangoes and the sauce into a dry sterilized glass jar. Pour the sesame oil to form a layer over the surface. Seal, and try to forget about it for at least a month, so that the mangoes can complete the pickling process in peace.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Mangoes