Saturday, October 19, 2013

Jalpai Achar/Indian Olive Pickle

Clockwise:a) The fresh fruit, b) blanched till the cracks appear, and c) soaking up the sun on a bamboo tray

Widely available during the cooler months in our region is the Indian olive/Elaeocarpus serratus locally known as jalpai/jolphai. Unlike the oil-producing olive/Olea europaea of the Mediterranean region, the Indian olive is a sour fruit. It is mainly used for making pickles and chutneys. The medium-sized tree produces hundreds of fruits and is a backyard feature in most homes. So a major winter activity in our region is making  jalpai achar! I made my first jar of olive pickle today and the concoction of spices filled my kitchen and the rest of the house with the heady aromas of a spice bazaar!


 2 kilos Indian olives
 Nearly one litre oil (I use mustard)
 2 heaped tablespoons of turmeric powder
 3 tablespoons of cumin seeds
 6 tablespoons of fennel
 3 tablespoons of ajwain/carom seeds
 20 dried red chillies
 About a cup of vinegar
 7-8 cloves of garlic
 6 tablespoons of coriander seeds
 3 heaped tablespoons of mustard seeds
 2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds
 Rock salt to taste
 Sugar...about 200 grams (it depends on how sweet you want your pickle to be. The pickle can always be checked/tasted later for any adjustments)
 Panch phoran, about a tablespoon(This is a mix of five spices used in eastern Indian cooking.The mixture consists of equal parts of fennel, cumin, fenugreek, mustard, and nigella seeds)
 Hing (asafoetida)
 Acetic acid, a few drops

Choose the freshest olives and leave the stalks on. This will make the fruit dry up faster in the sun later.Wash the olives and drain. Heat water in a pot. When it comes to near boiling point, put the olives into the water. Blanch for a few minutes. The fruit will become soft but don’t let them turn mushy. It's done when hairline cracks appear on the blanched fruit (as seen in the collage). Remove from the water and  cool in a sieve or colander. Then press with your fingers and remove the seeds. If you want the seeds in your pickle, gently press the fruit so that the moisture dries up faster. Lay out on a tray (I use one made of bamboo) and keep in the sun for a day. After two hours or so, the blanched fruit can be turned once so that they get the sun on the other side.

Soak the dried red chillies in vinegar (there should be enough vinegar to cover the chillies) and grind them to a paste. Dry roast all the other spices till the raw smell goes off and the seeds crackle in the pan. Grind them and keep aside. Toast the turmeric powder for a few minutes and keep aside. You need to be careful with the heat when you toast powdered spices as they tend to burn easily.

Heat the oil in a karhai. When it comes to smoking point, add the Indian bay leaves, the panch phoran, and the asafoetida. Let the oil cool down completely.

Mix all the spices along with the chilli paste and salt in a large bowl. Then add the olives making sure that they are well-coated with the spices. Gradually add the oil and keep mixing gently. Grind a few cloves of garlic in vinegar and add to the pickle.The sugar can also go in now. The combination of the spices with the garlic and rock salt is heavenly! You should always taste to check the balance of spices with the sweet and the sour. Add a few drops of acetic acid. Now the pickle is ready to go into prepared bottles.
Freshly-made pickle does not have the "finished" look as they need to be put out in the sun for a week or so.
For the next seven days or so the pickle needs to be cured in the sun. I use granulated sugar because this process melts down the sugar completely. After a few days you can check to see if any additions need to be made. If you need more heat in your pickle you can toast red chilli powder in a pan. Let the mixture cool then add it to the pickle.  
Bottling tip: Throw some hing into the flame then turn the bottle (the one you'll be using for the pickle) upside down over the flame. Any hint of moisture in the bottle will disappear and the aroma of the hing will be trapped in the bottle. 

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