After I got married and when we lived in Bengaluru, I went to the Yashwantpur market - it is a wholesale/retail fresh produce market on the north side of Bengalure where vendors come with their produce ranging from fresh greens to veggies to meat and spread them on push carts, make shift stalls or even on the road. It is an experience to walk through these extremely noisy, somewhat unhygenic streets where you will also find some of the freshest of ingredients. My love for these fresh produce bazars in India started very early, I used to go with my father on his 2-wheeler and bring home 2 huge cloth bags full of produce before festivals or special occasions. Though the bazaars are makeshift and most of the vendors operate without licenses (?), these places run on loyalty and regular visits. If you are a frequent customer, you know the vendors by name(and vice versa) and the exact place of their stalls in the chaos and you have a certain negotiating power on the prices quoted. There are smart vendors who will always start high and let you in on a lower price reserved just for customers like you :-) while there are smart customers who threaten the vendors that they have already seen the prices in 4 other stalls and know where to go and have the price reduced :-). It works both ways (or it doesn't :-)).
So back to Yashwantpur market, I accompanied amma on an early morning in Summer to that same vendor she had been going for years, bought the mangoes and have him chop them into fours. Yes, this is necessary you see, because the mangoes for avakkaya are not really tender, they are green and firm but they need to have a solid middle part (called Tenka in Telugu) and a seed should have started forming. The pieces (or mukkalu) are pickled with this part for longer term storage and your kitchen knife is not very handy in cutting these mangoes open. So, amma would choose the mangoes, put them in a basket and tell the guy to cut them. He would use his medium sized axe and an wooden board and chop each mango into 4s and drop the pieces in to the basket. Back home, the pieces were thoroughly washed and wiped dry before the pickling process began. Since my grocery store doesn't carry an axe and will not chop the mangoes for me, I did them at home :-)
Avakkaya is easy to make if you have the right quality ingredients. And when preserved right, stays over a year. I usually put my pickles from India in the refrigerator as we don't consume a lot of them.
What do you need to make Avakkaya?
10 medium sized firm, hard green mangoes (See notes)
3 cups red chili powder
2 cups salt (See notes)
3 cups mustard powder
3 cups oil (traditionally sesame oil is used for its fragrance, I used my regular sun flower oil)
2 Tsp fenugreek seeds
Pickle making is all about ensuring the longevity of the pickles. To this end, make sure your hands, spoons, pans and pots are all completely dry without any trace of water.
Prepare a jaadi (porcelain containers with lids) if you have access to or use glass containers like I did - wash them and wipe dry. Let the container sit in Sun for 2-3 hours to remove any traces of water.
How do you make avakkaya?
- Wash the mangoes thoroughly to remove any dirt on the skin.
- Wipe them dry and make sure they are not damp.
- Keep them on a wooden cutting board, and break them into two with a sharp knife. Now cut the halves into as many pieces based on your preference for size.
- Powder mustard in your blender/mixer into a fine powder. This is called Aava pindi.
- Take a dry, wide bowl, add salt, red chili powder, mustard powder and the fenugreek seeds and mix them well.
- Add oil to the powders and mix it into a wet masala.
- Now add the cut mango pieces - a handful at a time and coat the masala on each of the pieces.
- Finish up by mixing it all homogeneously and let it stand for half hour.
- Carefully scoop out the masala mixed mangoes into the prepared containers, close them and keep them aside to marinate flavors for 3 days before using.
- When you open the containers after 3 days, you will notice oil floating on top of the pickle, this means that the proportions have worked well, if the pickle looks too dry, add some more oil and mix with a dry spoon.
- Per amma, 1 Kg of mangoes, 3 cups each of red chili powder, salt and mustard powder. My 9 mangoes weighed a Kg and hence I have given the above proportion but reduced salt as I used table salt.
- Choose mangoes that are green and hard - your best bet to have a hard inner core (or tenka), some of my 9 mangoes were not very hard.
- I reduced the salt from amma's proportion as I used table salt which is much saltier than the traditional coarse rock salt used in India, adjust salt to suit your taste.
- The smaller mustard seeds are more flavorful than the big seeds, use them if you can or add a half cup more of mustard to the recipe.
- Over time, fenugreek seeds become soft and completely absorb the flavors of the pickle and makes for a wonderful explosion in your mouth when you eat it.
- Avakkaya has a lot of pindi (the masala) in it as this is typically mixed with hot rice and enjoyed. We did that on the day I mixed the avakkaya to get the most bang for buck, added hot rice in the avakkaya mixing bowl and ate it :-)
The Avakkaya made above is the plain version where mustard takes center stage, Prathibha is posting many variations of the avakkaya with her mother in law to help her out, check them out on her blog. I took 2 handfuls of the mixed avakkaya separately and embellished(!) them with peeled garlic pods because both BH and DD are great garlic fans while I don't like them in my pickle. So we have 2 cute little containers on the dining table with avakkaya now - one with garlic and one without it :-).