Pickles from India : The hidden lessons they carry


Pickles are eternal or so they are meant to be. Pickles were there yesterday, are there today and will be there tomorrow. Pickles are made in India since ages. Pickles come in every form and type. The technique to make pickles have been passed on from generation to next generation. Each region makes its own kind of pickle with the local produce available. Lot of spices and ingredients go into pickle to make it last long without any kind of synthetic or chemical preservatives. There might have been lot of iterations done by various people to perfect the art pickle to contain the right amount of natural preservatives as well as maintain the right kind of texture and taste.

Pickle making is an art in India. Usually pickles are made of Mango, Lemon and Amla. This is not exclusive or not limited list. There are various kinds of pickles made based on local fruits, plants and produce which last from 2 weeks to as long as 1 year. And you will be surprised to find the same taste even after an year. No modern preservation technique can come close to keeping food so fresh and long lasting.

Pickle making is art, science, religion and festival in India.

Pickle making starts at shopping for the ingredients and ends at placing the jar in the safe corner. When the season for pickle making starts like for eg the season for Mango pickle starts in summer. Ladies of the house often accompanied by a senior lady go to buy the best mangoes that are available. They pick each by hand and decide to pay the minimum they can. They bargain a lot. Why ? Because the amount of pickle that goes into the making is in large quantities for many households. It is made in small batches as 1 kg to large batches as 5kg to 10kg in a joint family. Those who have farms of their own, grow their yield separately and don’t have to go through the hustle of buying. They keep the best crop for themselves.

Pickle making is a family activity. Once the mangoes are brought home, they are washed nicely and cleaned until there is no water. Water is the enemy of pickles, well for most of them which are kept for long. Then all ladies, kids and men likely join in the process of cutting, marinating and preserving the pickle. For each kind of pickle, there is a separate process. But in all of them, the base idea is to keep things clean, follow the process taught to them by their granny, mother or mother-in-law and keep the pickle to rest in safe place. Most houses consider it equivalent to a religious ritual to make pickle as any kind of damage or rotting in the long wrong is considered bad.

Pickle making is Science. Process above everything. Most pickles are kept in solution of some kind of food oil and usually contains ingredients like mustard (Rai), clove (laving), fenugreek (methi), til, corainder (daniya) and other seeds in dry roasted and powder form. The aroma of the spices is spread in the entire colony. Pickle is mixed and packed in the jar made of ceramic or glass or similar containers which are specifically chosen for pickles. Usually whatever spice mix is left after the pickle is packed, is enjoyed by the family with rice, chapati or any snack on that day itself.

One stop solution for travel, minimalism, economy and food. Pickles last long. Pickles can be carried easily. Pickles need not be cooked again. Pickles don’t need any kind of alteration. Pickles can be eaten with rice, roti, any kind of snack. They are taste boosters. Pickles make food wholesome. Pickles remind you of your culture, tradition, village, home and specially of your family.

Pickle is poor man’s food. For the well off pickle may be a side dish or taste enhancer but for the real poor of India, pickle is a half part of meal. When the days are not well, they just add pickle in between roti and enjoy with some onion or chilly. When they travel in trains or are on move from one village to another, it helps them to travel light and eat healthy stomach filling food. When the supply of vegetables is over a toss or their is a breakdown in the supply due to any kind of natural calamity or strikes or damage to crops, pickles help to manage the days by functioning as supplements.

Pickles are made at home by family with hands, care, dedication and lot of love!

Pickle haters are few, yet they have their reasons. Some may complaint about the amount of oil, spices, chillies or other ingredients that go into the pickles that it makes their stomach upset or heat them up. But certainly they are not in the right context and use of pickles. It may not be right for them to consume but for millions, I say MILLIONS in India, it is a part of every day meal. For some it’s the major part of their meal. So don’t eat if you don’t like, but do not speak ill of it. It is not meant for you.

Homemade food made with lot of ingredients and a little love. Pickles in India are not made in factories with machines and synthetic preservatives. Pickles are made at home by family with hands, care, dedication and lot of love. Today in India, many varieties of pickle are sold in packets, containers some made by people, some made by industries. They may be good or may not. You can check the ingredients listed. But once you taste the pickle made by a mother, you will never forget it.

Pickles mix with every dish without any complaint.

Add pickle in your bucket list. If you are travelling to India for the first time, then make sure to add it in your bucket list to taste some form of home made pickle. You may carry some with you. However make sure to ask about the ingredients or heat level if you are allergic to any kind of food or cannot tolerate. For fun, you keep a bottle of milk with you and try it. If you fall in love with pickles then you will find each village have a variety of each kind of pickle and their are so many different kinds of pickle, so it will be a pursuit for you, even if you are Indian.

Pickles saved many generations in India. Pickles are their for a reason. If you don’t know the reason and don’t want to know, then at least check at the scale of their presence and accept the importance. For situations like COVID19 when the movement was restricted, pickles have helped many households. Even though the essentials were allowed in this scenario, many scenarios in life, don’t come with the liesure or choice. So pickles become a saviours. So I urge you all who consider pickles to be just another product in the food racks of shopping malls, to remember your childhood or make a call to your mother or grand mother and know about their experiences related to pickle and if you are lucky you may find a secret recipe hidden in them. It’s time to bring it out and try, before they are lost forever.


Let us know your favourite pickle in comments section below. If you are visiting our site from other parts of the world, share your thoughts on pickles and which kind of pickles are made in your country. If you don’t like pickles, share your feelings and reasons.

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