Pickling has existed as a way of food preservation since antiquity. Unpredictable weather and long travel made it necessary to find a way to make food last longer. Pickles are in the Bible and the works of Shakespeare. Cleopatra treasured them as a secret to her beauty and Colombus used them to prevent scurvy on board his ships. The process of fermentation creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics necessary for a thriving gut flora. In North America, cucumber is the vegetable of choice but the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and South Asians pickle a plethora of vegetables and fruits using varied techniques and spices.
Pickles were ever present growing up, a little something to add complexity and a kick to staple dishes. This particular one takes me back to lazy winter afternoons in Karachi. It would be prepared as the heat let up and humidity shifted*. With the first hint of crisp, slightly smoky air and softening sunshine, we would come out of air-conditioned cocoons and into a flurry of social activity to make the most of the forgiving weather and the short winter season. Outdoor parties, picnics, and leisurely brunches would fill the days. This recipe is a tribute to those idyllic times.
* In the milder conditions of coastal USA, it can be prepared in early fall as the weather becomes milder.
4 large turnips
2 tbsp. red pepper, crushed
3 tbsp. mustard seeds, crushed
2 tbsp. nigella seeds
4-5 garlic cloves, smashed
salt to taste
– Slice the turnip into 1/4 inches width.– Add to a full pot of boiling water and parboil.
– Remove, spread on a tray and allow to cool slightly.
– Transfer to a sanitized, airtight jar, add all the remaining spices and shake to distribute the ingredients well.– Close the lid and marinate 24 hours.
– Unseal in a well-ventilated area as the trapped air will be pungent.– Add filtered, boiled water to cover the turnips, close the lid tightly again and allow to sit in the sun for 5-6 days till the liquid turns cloudy and opaque.
Pairs well with steamed basmati rice and Simple Lentils.