Gajar-Gobhi-Shalgam ka Achaar: Carrot-Cauli-Turnip Pickle, & a formula for some North Indian Pickles

#rozkakhana series

Jump to Recipes | With oil | Without oil

With a nip in the air and markets filling up with colourful winter produce, it's the perfect time to make some delicious pickles and bottle them up for lip-smacking sides for any meal! This traditional pickle of winter carrots, cauliflowers and turnips is not only classic but an absolute favourite of mine!

Whether made as a longstanding pickle using oil or as an instant version without oil, it comes together with minimal spices and salt.

In my post on Kasrod ka Achaar, fiddlehead fern pickles, I mentioned about the pickling culture in India. I quote from the same post,

In India, if not everywhere, of the many things that can narrate a community's eating choices and preferences, pickles are definitely illustrative of what the people making them cherish and what they want to perpetuate. Pickles or achaar as they're called in India, which may have been abated as mere condiments in the modern era, are actually mains in the meals of several communities. Living through years, assimilating in spice and layers of oil and salt, they are culinary timestamps carrying spoonfuls of cultural mores in the subcontinent.
For many, the achaar tradition in India is effervescent with memories of summer holidays spent at grandparents' homes and mellow winters atop terraces watching barnis, ceramic jars, filled to the brim, tiffin boxes daubed with oil or glass bottles packed in suitcases, smelling of someone's home.

Since every community across the length and breadth of the country have their own styles and methods for pickling, depending on the vegetables, fruits or meat they want to preserve and enjoy, and the spices and oils favoured and available in the region, almost anything that's edible and can find its way to the plate, has the potential to be pickled in India. For this reason, pickle making is also regional culinary knowledge, and learning to make pickles and continuing the tradition is a way of honouring that old art form.

Broadly, here are some of the most common ways of pickling in India:

  • With spices (common pickling spices are mustard, onion seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, chilies)

  • Without spices Along with spices, salt is of course mandatory for preservation. For sweet tasting pickles, sugar/jaggery is also used.

  • With oil (in the northern half of the country, mustard oil is favoured for pickling while in the southern half, sesame oil is more common)

  • Without oil

From the above options, there are combinations which emerge such as with-spices and without-oil, with-salt-and-oil, and with-spices alone.


Winter pickles in North India


Mustard happens to be extremely popular in north India for pickling, both as a spice as well as an oil. When I say north India, I'm referring both the extreme north including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, mid-plains including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as well as the western fringe including Rajasthan and parts of Gujarat.


In fact, mustard fermented pickles are a category of their own in north India, especially during winters. Mustard lends a sharp pungent tone which goes very well with savoury pickles and acts as a fermenting agent along with chilies. In Indian pickles, we never add water because the vegetables or fruits, which are usually seasonal, have enough water in them to enable the flavours to soak into them.


Such pickles pair very well with winter foods which usually tends to be hot and slightly heavier than the summer foods. With ready availability of a variety of seasonal produce in winter, and commonly available and affordable spices like mustard, turmeric and chilli powders, pickling becomes a steady activity throughout most households.


A formula for winter pickles


Contrary to popular opinion, pickling although involves some experience to render good and balanced flavours, needn't always be a tedious or tough-to-tackle process. I am not someone who has been pickling seasonal produce from a long time but I have observed pickles being made in many different homes, communities and set-ups.


Based on this experience, I'm laying down a formula for you to help you experiment with making pickles with some seasonal produce. Please note, this style is a typical style followed in north India.


What spices to use?

  • Mustard seeds (coarsely powdered), fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds and turmeric and red chilli powders are the typical spices that are enough to yield tremendous flavour, and also come with health benefits. In fact, you can also make pickles with mustard, turmeric and red chilli powders only! Salt undoubtedly is necessary in all for preservation and taste. Sugar or jaggery are used for sweet tasting pickles, which again help in preservation.

  • Sometimes, just salt and chilies are also enough to make pickles. This works well especially for limes and lemons which have a lot of water content and the sheer play of osmosis creates wonder bombs. Chilies provide the much needed heat.

  • Of all, mustard is key for fermentation in pickles. As the mustard ferments it makes the pickle tangy and stabilizes the heat of chillies and other spices and steadies the saltiness, which you may initially find in savoury pickles.

To use oil or not?

  • Oil definitely helps in increasing the shelf life of pickles. But that doesn't mean you can't make pickles without oil. In north India, mustard oil is preferred for pickling. If the vegetables involved don't have a lot of water in themselves, oil helps keep the pickle soft and tender, and adds flavour. Pickles made with oil can last a very long time, sometimes for 1 or 2 years when they have excess oil, at room temperature.

  • For vegetables which are higher in water content, oil isn't a must if you want an instant pickle that you can store in the refrigerator. Mustard, turmeric and red chilli powders with salt render delicious pickles without oil. But, these pickles will not last a long time if not refrigerated.

What vegetables can you pickle using this formula?

  • Root vegetables like carrots, radish, turnips, kohlrabi, ginger, fresh turmeric are excellent candidates for pickling without oil or water and with minimum spices like mustard, turmeric and salt.

  • Some varieties of beans like flat beans, chickpea shoots and fresh peas can also be pickled with mustard and without oil or water.

  • Cauliflowers also make great pickles, both with or without oil. But I generally prefer adding oil when cauliflower is involved as it tastes better.

How to prepare the vegetables for pickling?

  • Cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Wedges, batons, cubes or slices are good shapes.

  • Root vegetables like carrots, radish, turnips, kohlrabi, ginger, fresh turmeric are quite easy to pickle. You cut them in desired shape and then toss in with spices and simply add into clean glass or ceramic jars. They don't need any oil, and when made without oil they're usually ready in a day or 2 to be eaten. In fact, sometimes within a few hours. You can use oil to increase shelf life of such pickles. Without oil, they tend to be more like instant pickles and can even be eaten as salads.

  • Vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, flat beans and peas need a little blanching or parboiling first. This depends on the kind of texture you like in pickles. For root vegetables, I like them crunchy while I prefer cauliflower, broccoli and beans to be slightly tender.

  • If you blanch or parboil veggies, you will need to drain the water after that. If using oil, lay the blanched veggies on a dry plate or cloth and let them dry up and loose any water before you add oil and spices to the pickles. If making without oil, you can simply proceed to mix them in a bowl with spices and salt and then store in clean bottles. Such pickles can stay good for maximum 2 days at room temperature, and then need to be refrigerated.

 

Recipes


Check out the formula I use to variate this recipe for other vegetables


Longstanding version with oil

Ingredients
  • 4 cups of carrot batons, turnip wedges and cauliflower florets I also use the stems and leaves of the cauliflower which adds good texture.

To make savoury pickle

  • 4-5 green chillies poked or slit (optional)

  • 1-inch ginger sliced and then chopped as sticks (optional)

  • 3 tbsp black or brown mustard seeds

  • 2 tsp fennel seeds

  • 1.5 tsp fenugreek seeds

  • 1/4 tsp Nigella seeds (optional)

  • 2 tbsp red chilli powder

  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

  • 3 tbsp salt (or 2 tbsp salt + 1 tbsp black salt)

  • Juice of 2-3 limes - this helps in fastening the fermentation process and also adds a bit of sour kick

  • 1 cup mustard oil

  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida (optional)

To make sweet-sour or sweet pickle

  • 1-inch ginger chopped fine

  • 3 tbsp black or brown mustard seeds

  • 2 tsp fennel seeds

  • 1.5 tsp fenugreek seeds

  • 2 tsp cumin seeds

  • 10-12 peppercorns

  • 4-5 cloves

  • 2 black cardamoms

  • 2 tbsp red chilli powder

  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

  • 3 tbsp salt

  • 1/3 cup jaggery (if you like it sweeter, add more jaggery)

  • Juice of 2-3 limes or 3-4 tbsp vinegar

Method
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and then add the cauliflower florets, carrots and turnips. If using the cauliflower stems, add them after 5 minutes, followed by the leaves. Switch off the heat and let the veggies stay in water for about 2-3 minutes.

  2. Drain the water and use the water to make veggie stock or soup later. Spread the vegetables on a clean surface and dry them under the fan or in the sun for at least an hour or until quite dry.

To make savoury version:

  1. Meanwhile, heat the mustard oil until smoking hot and then add the asafoetida if using. Turn off the heat and then keep aside to cool

  2. Assemble the whole mustard, fennel, Nigella and fenugreek seeds and grind them coarse. Add the dry powdered spices (turmeric and red chilli powders) and salt and give a good mix. Once the vegetables have dried, mix them with the poked/slit chillies, ginger and the spices + salt. Add the lime juice if using and mix again.

  3. Next add the cooled mustard oil and use your clean hands to nicely massage the vegetables and mix everything. Your hands have good bacteria and that helps fermentation. You can of course use a clean and dry spoon to mix too!

To make the sweet-sour/sweet version:

  1. Coarsely grind the mustard, fennel and fenugreek seeds and keep aside. Dry roast cumin, cloves, cardamoms and peppercorns. Cool and then grind fine.

  2. Heat the mustard oil until smoking hot. Add ginger and toss until it's brownish. Add coarsely ground spices, red chilli and turmeric powders and mix well. Then add the finely ground spices and mix well. Cook everything on low heat. Now add the jaggery and cook till it melts. Switch off the heat.

  3. Add the vegetables and salt and mix very well. Squeeze the limes/add vinegar into the veggies coated with spices. Let it cool completely for 4-5 hours.

Pack tightly in clean sterile jars, and leave in the sun preferably, for at least 4-5 days before eating. You may eat it sooner too but the taste gets better when you leave it to ferment a bit longer with or without the sun. I usually leave it for 2 weeks when I'm patient!


Instant version without oil

You can use the same recipe to pickle radish, kohlrabi, beans, fresh turmeric, ginger, etc. Check out the formula I use to variate this recipe for other vegetables


Ingredients
  • 4 cups of carrot batons, turnip wedges and cauliflower florets I also use the stems and leaves of the cauliflower which adds good texture.

  • 4-5 green chillies chopped (optional) - For this version, use chilies that are less hot like jalapeños because you don't have oil to absorb the extra heat

  • 1-inch ginger sliced and then chopped as sticks (optional)

  • 3 tbsp black or brown mustard coarsely ground

  • 2 tbsp red chilli powder

  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

  • 3 tbsp salt

Method
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and then add the cauliflower florets, carrots and turnips. If using the cauliflower stems, add them after 5 minutes, followed by the leaves. Switch off the heat and let the veggies stay in water for about 10 minutes.

  2. Drain the water and use the water to make veggie stock or soup later. Add the boiled florets, stems and leaves of the cauliflower in a bowl and then top them with carrots and turnips, green chillies and ginger (if using). Add salt, mustard, turmeric and red chilli powders and use your clean hands to nicely massage the vegetables and mix everything. Your hands have good bacteria too and that helps fermentation. You can of course use a clean and dry spoon to mix too!

  3. Pack tightly in sterile jars and leave aside for 2-3 hours or overnight. After 2 days at room temperature, you will need to store it in a refrigerator for an extended shelf life of this pickle. You may add a few squeezes of lime or vinegar too for increasing the shelf life.


Enjoy with hot parathas or top it on some khichdi or notch up your salad with a helping of this pickle!



 



494 views0 comments