Thursday, November 12, 2015

Amra Achar

Amra pickle
The other day I saw a bunch of hog plums or amra in one of the weekly markets here. I immediately picked up a bunch. I have had this in ripe form when they turn yellowish green and sweet and also a little acidic. I had never pickled them before and this was going to be my first time.
This is another fruit that I associate with my childhood particularly during the winter school break. My siblings, cousins and I would be dropped at our grandparents' place in a place called Maibang for a couple of weeks. It was heaven! We would play on the banks of the river that flowed in the backyard and  then head over to the paddy fields. In a little stream we would look for snails and shrimp, lie on bundles of hay and eat the ripest of amra and tamarind (the season of both fruits) under the bluest of skies. That was bliss!
Amra pickle

Known as thaishudi in my mother tongue, it is known as amra in Bengali and omora in Assamese. A little help from Wiki here: 
Spondias mombin or Spondias purpurea var. lutea is a tree, a species of the flowering plant Anacardiaceae. It is native to the tropical Americas including the West Indies. The tree has been naturalized in parts of Africa, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. It is rarely cultivated.
The mature fruit has a leathery skin and a thin layer of pulp. The seed has an oil content of 31.5%.
Amra pickle
Amra pickle
There are no exact measurements for this recipe. I made it the way I make Indian olive pickle although most people make it without boiling. This was a recipe I experimented with and it turned out pretty good.
Ingredients:
1 bunch amra
Mustard oil
Panch puran
Turmeric powder
Salt to taste (I used rock salt
Hing/asafoetida, a pinch
Tejpatta, a few leaves  
Chilli powder
Fenugreek
Cumin 
Coriander
Ajwain/Carom seeds
Fennel 
Mustard 
The last six spices must be toasted and ground. Coriander and cumin must be in a larger proportion than the rest.
The fibrous seeds of amra
Heat a pan of water, enough to immerse the fruit.
Remove the fruit from the stalks. Wash and drain as the water boils.
Plunge into the boiling water for 4-5 minutes. The skin is tough so you don't need to worry about the fruit being overcooked.
Remove and drain in a colander.
Spread the fruit on a bamboo mat and dry in the sun for the entire day turning them once or twice during the drying period. It's best to do the blanching in the morning so that the fruit gets the sun for several hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the spices. 
Toast the seeds separately until they start to crackle and let out their unique aroma.
I usually use ajwain, fennel and fenugreek in smaller portions as the combination of these spices is more to do with the aroma.
Toast the chilli powder on a low flame.
Repeat the same with the turmeric powder. 
Heat the mustard oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, add a pinch of hing and the tejpatta. Add the panch puran. 
Remove the pan from the flame and set aside. Let the oil cool down.
Transfer the fruit to a large bowl. Add the salt and all the spices. Mix with a spatula. Add the cooled oil gradually and mix well so that every fruit is coated with the spices.
Taste the masala and check whether the salt is enough. 
Throw some hing in the flame and turn the pickle jar upside down so that the aroma of the hing is trapped in it. 
Fill up the jar or jars with the pickle. The pickle is almost ready.
Place the jars in the sun for about a week. The curing in the sunlight will soften the fruit and enhance the taste of the pickle.
I did not use any sugar as the fruit is not as acidic as tamarind. 
A few drops of citric acid can also be added to the pickle.
Panch puran is a mix of five spices consisting of equal portions of mustard, fenugreek, cumin, nigella and fennel seeds. This mix is used whole and emits a lovely aroma as soon as they hit the hot oil.
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