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Indian/Parsi Eggplant Pickle

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Nik Sharma

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Indian/Parsi Eggplant Pickle

Indian pickles, or achars, are different from their Western counterparts. They use a combination of oil and spices to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, and they’re also typically not fermented. Some recipes require you to keep the pickles in the sun as they cure and penetrate the preserved vegetables or fruits. Oils like mustard or sesame are the two most popular choices for pickles in India. Mustard oil is unique in that it not only adds a bright golden color to the pickle but also brings in that wasabi kick to make things extra peppery. We pickle almost everything in India, from unripe green mangoes to sweet and savory pickles, gooseberries, carrots, and shrimp. This beautiful Parsi eggplant pickle from Nilofuer Ichaporia King is rich with bold flavors. Serve this pickle as a condiment with some fish and rice on the side, or load it into a kebab sandwich or next to a dish of roast vegetables.

A version of this recipe first appeared in my column, A Brown Kitchen in the San Francisco Chronicle

  • Yield: about 2 quarts/1.9 L

Ingredients

2 cups/480 ml mustard oil (see Notes)

2 tsp fenugreek seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp fennel seeds

¾ cup/105 g thinly sliced garlic

¾ cup/94 g freshly julienned, peeled ginger root

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp ground turmeric

5 lb/2.3 kg globe eggplant, cut into 1-in/2.5 cm cubes

1 cup/100 g fresh green chillies such as serrano, chopped

2 ½ cups/480 ml apple cider vinegar, cane, or malt

¾ cup/150 g packed light or dark brown sugar or ground jaggery

2 Tbsp fine sea salt

Instructions

  1. In a deep, non-reactive stainless steel pan, heat the oil until hot over medium-high heat. Add the fenugreek, cumin, and fennel seeds; they will sputter in a few seconds, but watch carefully not to let them burn. Remove the seeds with a tea strainer if they burn, discard, and repeat.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger and cook till they turn golden brown. Reduce the heat to low, add the cayenne and turmeric, and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the eggplant and chilies and stir to coat, then add the vinegar, sugar and salt. Stir well to combine and bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce the heat and let it simmer, uncovered until the eggplant softens completely and the oil floats to the top, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Do not add water; if it looks like the eggplant will stick, add a few spoonfuls of vinegar. While the pickle is warm, taste it and adjust the sweet, salt, and sour balance. Bottle when cool, stirring first to incorporate the oil. Store in a cool and dark place in your pantry or kitchen. This pickle stays good for up to 1 month if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  

Notes

  • Peanut and sesame oil (not toasted) can be used instead of mustard oil. Yandilla makes the mustard oil I recommend and is FDA-approved.
  • If you like the pickle less hot, halve the amount of cayenne and the chillies. 

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