he summer months of April and May (and June in the northern parts of India) are very hot and usually devoted to pickling and preserving. This is when mangoes are also aplenty and the varieties of mango available in India are mind boggling. Every region of the country that grows mangoes has its own unique varieties. Similarly each region has its own way of pickling mangoes and specific varieties are used for particular pickles!
Having been otherwise occupied this past month, I suddenly realized that the monsoon rains would be here in a couple of weeks. And that the mangoes would disappear from the market only to return next summer!
So when I went to the market last Sunday, I went a bit crazy buying mangoes (mangoes are quite expensive this year as unseasonal rains destroyed a large part of this year’s crop). Maybe the unusually hot summer had addled my brains a bit!! As you can see from the picture, I could probably set up my own mango stall.
Now, a little about this pickle. This is a sweet and spicy pickle comes from the Indian state of Gujarat which is usually served with spicy flatbreads like parathas. This pickle is usually made with the Rajapuri variety of mangoes but if you cannot find it, what you have will suffice. Just make sure your mangoes are not fibrous.
In my part of the country, a Rajapuri mango does not exist so my personal preference is to use the Thothapuri (Hindi)/ Kilimooku(Tamil)/ Kilichundan (Malayalam) variety of mango which takes its name in all three languages mentioned from the curved lower end of the mango which resembles the beak of a parrot! I choose those mangoes that are still raw and firm but on the verge of starting to ripen. This gives the mangoes an interesting taste of slightly sour with a hint of sweet.
In the traditional method of preparation, the peeled and grated mango and sugar are mixed together and put into a jar whose mouth is covered and tied with a clean piece of cloth. This jar is then kept in the hot sun and then shaken well and brought in at dusk. This ritual is observed religiously, everyday, for a month. At the end of this time the sun would have turned the sugar into a very thick syrup while cooking the mango at the same time. Then the other ingredients are added to the pickle and mixed. The pickle tastes wonderful.
But what do you do if you do not have a month to spare? Or the time to do all this and maybe not enough sun either? You make it on the stove-top! You lose out on the taste that only the sun can provide but you still have a very nice pickle and that’s what counts when you have to make the best of things.
Aam Ka Chundo/ Chunda (Sweet and Spicy Grated Mango Pickle)Ingredients:5 medium raw mangoes (approx 4 1.2 cups after grating)4 1/2 cups sugar1/2 tsp turmeric powder2 slightly heaped tsp chilli powder (adjust to preference)salt to taste1 1/2 tsp cumin powderTraditionally, I understand, the grated mango: sugar ratio (by volume) is 1: 1 1/2. I have used a ratio of 1: 1 as I find this otherwise too sweet. Please increase the sugar if you feel you need to.Method:Peel and grate the raw mangoes.Put the grated mangoes, turmeric powder, salt and sugar in a deep heavy bottomed vessel/ pan. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, till the sugar becomes syrupy (thick string stage, i.e. when the mixture falls off the spoon it forms thick strings) and the mixture is thick like a jam.Add the chilli powder and stir, cooking for another couple of minutes. Add the cumin powder, stir and remove from heat. Stir the mixture well and allow to cool.Store in sterilized bottles. Serve with spicy parathas, chapathis, puris or as preferred.This pickle should be on the sweeter side, somewhat spicy with a mild hint of salt. The above measurements are not exact as the amounts of salt and chilli powder need to be adjusted depending on how sour the variety of mango used is.