When I was much younger, “Nellikkai”, which is what we call the North Indian “Amla” or the Indian gooseberry in my language, was not something we saw often. When we did, it was a smaller variety of the fruit which is more common in South India that is extremely sour, bitter and astringent to the boot. A lot of my friends would put up with this awful taste and bite into the fruit and then drink water immediately afterwards because this left a delightfully sweet aftertaste on the tongue! Even this “magic” wouldn’t tempt me into eating the fruit.
The Indian gooseberry is however full of nutritional goodness which has long been recognized by Ayurveda and it is an essential part of the popular immunity boosting concoction “Chyavanaprash”. Apart from having various medicinal benefits, the Indian gooseberry is especially rich in Vitamin C, whether fresh or dehydrated, and about 100gm of the fruit contains as much as 600mg of it.
As I grew older I started acquiring a fondness for Indian gooseberries pickled in brine. The salt managed to negate the bitterness and a lot of the sourness making this pickle a great accompaniment to the South Indian favourite and comfort food of “curd rice” or rice and plain yogurt.
I also discovered the spicier pickled version of these gooseberries as well as other dishes which were prepared using the gooseberries pickled in brine. As it would happen, no one else here at home likes Indian gooseberries particularly but don’t occasionally mind it disguised in other preparations. This means that I pickle them in brine every season.
The recipe below can be adjusted slightly either way and is just an indication of approximate quantities. What one is looking for is enough salt to preserve the gooseberries, and should be salty enough so they could be eaten comfortably as they are. Make sure that the brine covers gooseberries once they are in the jar as this protects them from fungal contamination.
This version of brine pickled Indian gooseberries can be used as it is, with rice an plain yogurt (curd rice) or used in other recipes which I shall post in some time to come.
Uppu Nellikkai/ Uppilitta Nellikka (Indian Gooseberries/ Amla in Brine)