A big chunk of my readers live outside India. And all of them will appreciate how I have tried not to rub salt on their mangoes wounds this year. There has been no talk of mangoes, whatsoever, on this blog so far this year; no debate on which mango is the King, or that mango is King.
But ’tis the season and you all have access to reasonably good unripe sour mangoes. Sour mangoes are loved all over Asia, cooked with dal, with vegetables (it is the perfect foil for bittergourd), or enjoyed as a relish such as Pel’s nam prik wan kap mamuang khiew. And when you don’t want to fuss, just slice them up, dip in salt, and taste nirvana. Not as much fun today when my teeth sour much too quick, but a favourite summer activity when we were kids.
Much of the Indian crop of sour mangoes ends up as pickle. Mangoes preferred for pickle making are not the same as those that are ripened for the sweet fruit. From a bunch of hundreds of flowers that bloom in an inflorescence, only one or two ripen into a mature fruit. Some of the unripe fruit that drops to the ground is good for a quick pickle to tide over till the prized Ramkela arrives in late-June. My mum sent over some of the fallen fruit from her trees and I made it into a pickle (much like this) which was promptly devoured. With the really tiny ones I was hoping to make South Indian-style mavadu pickle but didn’t get around to it and the baby mangoes shrunk without the brine😦 .
It is believed that the best time for pickling mangoes is after the first monsoon rains are past. The monsoon arrives first at the Kerala coast, and takes a while to reach Delhi. So while those of you in peninsular India are getting ready to fill up your stoneware jars, I will be doing this annual ritual only in early July (pictures are from last year) – if the monsoons are on time. The stormy weather all through this week and last, here in Delhi, has made it seem a little bit like the monsoons though.
Sour mangoes make for great mint and coriander chutneys in the summer. With the following tip you can have sour mangoes year round to make your favourite chutneys!
For the Maharashtrian style pickle, sour mangoes are chopped into small dice. The portion with the stone has flesh that can only be removed in slivers and is unsuitable for pickling (it will soften too quick). It used to be my father-in-law’s job to scrape all the flesh off the stone of the 5 kilos of mangoes that were pickled every year. Preserved in salt these slivers would provide us with sour mango for chutneys all through the year.
The first time I tried to make this preserve I did not salt the mangoes enough, and it spoiled even under refrigeration. The trick is to put enough salt, and then some. And then some more. You cannot over-salt this. When made into chutney the mango pieces have all the salt you will need! I finished the last of my preserved mango last month coinciding with the arrival of fresh sour mangoes in the market. This time I had got my salting right and did not even need to use precious refrigerator space; the jar of salted mangoes shared shelf space amicably with all the other pickles in my kitchen cupboard.
To preserve sour mangoes layer sliced mango with salt (add handfuls of salt after every one-inch layer of mango) and fill the jar to the top. Top with more salt. Use in place of fresh sour mangoes; remember to reduce or omit salt from the recipe.
All of my salted mango preserve ends up in chutney such as this coriander-coconut chutney. Here is the recipe for another favourite chutney that is the perfect dip for pakoras and kababs.
Pudiney ki Chutney
2 small bunches fresh mint (enough leaves to fill a 4 quart mixing bowl), rinsed
fresh coriander (cilantro), half the amount of mint leaves
1 medium onion, quartered
10 hot green chillies (or to taste)
1 t cumin seeds
1 medium sour mango, peeled and slivered
In the jar of your grinder add the onion at the bottom, then mango, and then the rest of the ingredients. Layering like this will release enough liquid quickly so that no water is needed for the chutney. Grind to a paste.
Variation: Use tomato in place of sour mango for an equally delicious chutney.