Pregnancy and Pickles always go hand in hand for Indian women. If you are newly married and you are ‘craving’ for a piece of tangy mango pickle or seen enjoying a slice of lime pickle, most people would give you a second (suspicious) look, wondering if what they are thinking is true. In India it’s believed that the most common pregnancy craving has to be the mouth watering sour and spicy pickles!
I have been a big fan of traditional Indian pickles all my life. I love my pickle, pregnant or not. No meal is complete without a serving of rice + yogurt + pickle for me. My kitchen always boasts a dozen variety of pickles made of different fruits and vegetables, which compliments every kind of food.
I have strong childhood memories of my mom pickling tender mangoes every summer. I grew up eating this lovingly and carefully prepared pickle. The simple meal of rosametta rice porridge and a tiny tender mango pickle is my comfort food till date. But for some reason I also believed the popular myth that ‘Pickles are bad for you!’ at one point of my life. I started avoiding the one of my favorite accompaniments because ‘some latest scientific study’ stays so.
Little did I know that what I ate all my life was actually very good for me! There was a reason why every culture in the world has some sought of ‘pickle’ or ‘fermented food’ as a part of their regular diet. There was a reason why all the generations before me happily ate a piece of pickle with their every single meal and continued to live a very healthy life.
I actually feel quite ashamed that we believe all the ‘studies’ that we read in newspapers and magazines without thinking twice. We don’t even wonder why it was part of our culture for hundreds of years if it was so bad for us. We never research/read/learn more… Thanks to the world of internet, food blogging and some wonderful knowledgeable friends I have, I am finally beginning to look deeper into what we eat and nutrition. It’s eye opening to take all these studies on food with a pinch of salt and learn more about the other side of the story.
We are repeatedly told that pickles are bad for us because of all the salt in it. So we are avoiding them like plague while we are happily munching on large bags of potato chips, popcorn and big bowls of instant noodles. Do we ever make an effort to see the amount of salt we consume in all the processed food we eat? While we all know that these salty junk food we eat has no nutritional value, did we ever wonder if pickle has anything more than just salt?
Now here’s why pickles are not bad for us especially if they are made the right way. The main ingredients in a bottle of traditional mango pickle that my mom makes are raw green mangoes, sea salt, dry red chilies, fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds. Some pickles might have a longer list of spices and even oil but none of the traditional pickles have anything more than that. They are not full of preservatives and other artificial flavours. Each one of these ingredients used in our humble pickle is actually good for you, even medicinal!
To begin with not all salt is the same. While the super refined white table salt that we use these days is not good for us, organic unrefined sea salt is very different. Refined salt contains no minerals and also has toxic additives from the manufacturing process—aluminum silicate and chlorine derivatives (to make it white). Unrefined salt provides electrolytes, which maintain water balance in the body and assist in nerve and muscle function. Unrefined salt also supplies minerals, which aid the immune system. Adding this amazing “right” salt to your diet can help battle fatigue, adrenal disorders, headaches, thyroid disorders, and lower cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Ten Health Benefits of Unrefined Sea Salt
1) Salt helps stabilize and regulate heartbeats, thanks to its magnesium and sodium content.
2) Sodium is essential for proper muscular function.
3) Salt helps minimize the effects of stress by maintaining proper melatonin, serotonin, and tryptamine levels in the brain.
4) Salt helps the body hold water sufficiently for proper cell hydration.
5) Salt helps remove cellular acidity, especially in the brain and kidneys. Thus it is an alkalizer.
6) Sea salt boosts your immune system.
7) Since salt is taken into bone matter as part of strengthening bones, it helps prevent osteoporosis.
8) Sea salt provides a buffer for blood sugar levels to help prevent diabetes or to help those who are diabetic use less insulin.
9) Sea salt provides iodine in a natural setting, making it easier for your thyroid to absorb it and to regulate the endocrine system.
10) It tastes better.(Source)
Chilies, red and green, are rich source of vitamin-C. They are also good in other antioxidants like vitamin A, and flavonoids like ß-carotene, α-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, and cryptoxanthin. Chilies contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Chilies are also good in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1).(Source)
Let me spare you from a long list of vitamins of minerals in mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds! We know they are very powerful spices which are definitely good for us.
Other than the power packed ingredients another great reason why one should include pickles in their diet is the fact that they are full of probiotics. I wrote about fermented food and probiotics in one of my recent posts (Click HERE for more). The potency of the fermented pickles grow with time so the right way to eat is the way my mother or grandmother did. They made a big jar full of it, which was consumed for at least a year and sometimes longer.
Like I already mentioned all these health benefits I am talking about are definitely limited to good quality homemade pickles. The bottle you pick off the supermarket shelf will never be like the one you make at home with the best ingredients and a lot of care. Here’s another interesting article about the difference between ‘pickled’ and ‘fermented’.
While making traditional fermented pickles remain to be an art, which needs years of experience to master, making smaller quantity of homemade pickles is not so hard. While these are not as good as the ones, which are slowly fermenting in the ceramic jars for years, they are surely a better alternative to store bought ones. I have been making little batches of pickles and experimenting with little variations of spices, fruits and vegetables for a while now. It’s a great way to use up unripe fruits and extra vegetables. I usually enjoy using tart crisp and crunchy vegetables and fruits in my pickles. Small bottles of assorted homemade pickles are great gifts too.
Plums are in season right now and the big pile of these juicy red fruits are very tempting. Unfortunately they are mostly too sour to eat plain. I recently bought a bunch of these gorgeous beauties but I just couldn’t eat the plain by them. I love baking with plums and adding them to ice creams, sorbets and smoothies but I wanted to avoid the sugar overload and make something savory instead. That’s when I thought of making a bottle of Plum Pickle!
Plums are very nutritious fruits and they are very good for you during pregnancy. Plums are high in antioxidants and are a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and dietary fiber. Because they have such a high level of vitamin C they increase your Iron absorption considerably. It’s a very good idea to have a dollop of this delicious pickle with your meals.
This pickle recipe is very simple and straightforward. It has just a few spices, which are freshly roasted and ground. It’s also an oil-free pickle, which makes it much lighter and fresher. Everybody has their own preferences when it comes to pickle spices and I like mine with a little extra mustard. There is something nice about the pungency and bitterness of black mustard seeds against the fiery heat of red chilies.
The spice level of the pickle completely depends on the kind of chilies you use. If you are using milder chilies, increase the number of them so that you have a bright red pickle.
You can reduce the amount of mustard, fenugreek seeds and asafetida if you do not like your pickle to be pungent and bitter.
Use plums, which are slightly under-ripe and firm for better pickle. Save the soft, ripe, sweet ones for dessert.
Make sure all the bowls and spoons and everything else (including your hands) you use for the pickle are dry and free of moisture.
Make sure you use dry serving spoon every single time.
Store the pickle in a clean dry airtight glass jar. It can be stored for up to a week in room temperature and up to a month if it’s refrigerated.
This pickle tastes best with Indian food. I always serve it with curd rice (yogurt and rice).
- 500 grams of fresh plums
- 4-5tbsp of unrefined sea salt
- 20-25 dry red chilies
- 1tbsp black mustard seeds
- ½tsp – 1tsp fenugreek seeds
- ½tsp asafetida powder
Clean the plums well and le them dry completely. Prep them by removing the pit and cutting them into thin slices. Place them in a clean dry bowl and mix in the salt. Stir gently for everything to mix well. Let this sit for at least a couple of hours or even overnight. Salt draws out all the moisture form the fruits.
Dry roast all red chilies till they are warmed through, crisp and aromatic. Dry roast the fenugreek seeds till they are a shade darker. Dry roast the black mustard seeds till they start popping. Let all the spices cool down completely and grind them into a smooth powder along with asafetida. Mix the spice powder with the salted plums. The salt water in it will be sufficient to make a moist pickle.
Transfer the pickle into clean dry glass jars and let the pickle sit in room temperature at least for a day. The flavors mature and develop with time. It’s better to let the pickle slowly mature for 2 days before you serve it. After that you can store it in the refrigerator.