Talking to someone about Gujarati pickles, the other person happened to mention a pickle that his grandmother would always give to him when he was unwell an feeling under the weather. He said, when he had the flu or was just unwell and had that bitter taste in the mouth from being sick, infection, medication, etc. his grandmother would take a small bowlful of this pickle and give him to have it with his meals, or sometimes just like that, knowing how much he loved it. He would eat it all year round too, but it was a special delight to have when unwell, usually a time when such delicious foods are off the bounds, with most mothers and grandmothers switching a sick child’s diet to as simple and easy to digest food as possible. This pickle was special, he said. This pickle was the Panichu.
What is Panichu?
Panichu is a unique Gujarati mango pickle that is made by fermenting the mangoes in its own juices instead of heavily dousing it in the pickle spices and oil for preservation. The recipe involves exactly four ingredients usually – the mangoes, salt, turmeric powder, and some oil, usually castor oil. It is made in small batches and requires a lot of care so it can be preserved for the whole year until next season. It does not use any other preservatives. Families can have their own variations, adding in a spice or varying the method slightly to suit their own tastes or heirloom sensibilities.
How to make Panichu?
Panichu pickle uses the small and rawest of mangoes, usually the Totapuri mangoes. The mangoes need to be fully raw, the slightest ripening would increase the chances of rotting the pickle and ruining everything. So, the mangoes need to be carefully picked.
Each household would have a unique vessel in which they make this pickle, usually a wooden jar, but with changing times, ceramic and glass jars have also come into use for this. No matter what you are using, the vessel has to be washed and then dried completely in the sun to ensure there is no moisture and no leftover pickle residue from the previous batch.
Now, a mixture of salt and turmeric powder is made in the oil. As I mentioned before, it is usually castor oil that gets used.
Half of the mixture is poured into the jar, and smeared on all sides of the jar to coat all the surfaces thoroughly.
Then the mangoes are added in. The remaining mixture is poured and the jar is tossed about to ensure all mangoes are covered completely in the mixture.
I also found an alternative method from another family. They cover each mango individually in the salt and turmeric mixture and then place it in the smeared jar. The remaining mixture is then poured into the jar and tossed.
Now, wrap the lid in a cloth, and then place it on the jar. We don’t want a very, very tightly closed jar here.
Next day, add in a tray of ice cubes (more or less depending on how much pickle you were making). Add enough ice so that, when the water melts, and the water released because of the salt present in the jar is enough to cover all the mangoes fully. In earlier days, people used to use water from earthen pots, however, in modern times, ice cubes serve the purpose even better than that earthen pot water.
Keep tossing the jar every day to ensure the mixing of the juices for the first two weeks. The pickle should be ready for consumption in about 20 days. The process of tossing would still be required to be done on a weekly basis, even after the pickle is ready for consumption. This tossing process is critical. The more you toss the pickle, the longer it will last.
The mangoes in the panichu picke will continue to remain firm, they do not soften up like they usually do in other pickles.
How to consume the Panichu?
Whenever you want to eat the panichu mangoes, open the jar, take the required amount of mangoes out and replace the lid on the jar quickly. Don’t keep the pickle jar open for too long. Wash the mangoes off thoroughly in water, cut the mangoes into pieces of the desired size, and voila, it is easy to eat.
From what I know, some families also add slices of fresh turmeric to the panichu along with the raw mangoes. Some also add the gumberries (Gunda/lasoda) to the panichu pickle too. The process to be followed remains the same. The moisture from the fruit will leach out with the salt, the fruit will get pickled in its own juices and a unique Panichu pickle would be ready in 20 days. Even better, I also know of families who add the guar (guarphalli) to the panichu pickle, and boy, it turns out so, so delicious. The bitterness of the guar balances out beautifully with the fermentation and what a pickle it is!
Just talking about this pickle has me tempted to go have some. It tastes so yumm that I don’t even need roti or rice or anything else to have it. But, yes, it goes well with roti and subzi. And like I said before, it is perfect to have when you’re unwell. It is not big on oil or spices, it is simple, and definitely easy to digest. The essence of this pickle is in the way it is made and how the mangoes (or the other ingredients, if being added) are preserved. The more diligent you are with it, the longer it will last.
Have you tried the Panichu pickle? Do you know someone who has? Would you like it to try it someday?
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