I love Delhi in winter – just to hang around the vegetable vendors who line the streets and the open markets. Winter brings the large white cauliflower, soft as butter, unimaginably fragrant turnips, radishes with their succulent, sulphury greens, and not to be left out, the famous red and black carrots available only in Northern India. While people go into raptures about juicy strawberries, I remained fixated on my favorite roots.
Winter also brings pickles. My unabashed favorite is my mother’s Cauliflower, Carrot and Turnip Pickle. Sweet, tangy and spicy, it is the perfect foible to a hot, fresh parantha for breakfast. As my mom has gotten older, she has stopped making pickles, and buys them instead. She called the other days and said “Sweetheart I have two bottles of your favorite pickle” and I proudly replied, “Mom, I have two kilos of my favorite pickle for you, and I made it myself!”
Pickles make a great gift with that WOW factor – “you made those yourself? Even my mother doesn’t make pickles!” Sweetened and soured with a thick syrup of jaggery and vinegar, pungent with the flavours of mustard oil and ground mustard, and of course hot and spicy thanks to chilies and garam masala – no winter would be complete without the making of the ubiquitous Punjabi cauliflower, carrot and turnip pickles!
Below is an adapted version of my mother’s recipe, which can be made all year round. Go ahead and impress your friends with your homemade Punjabi pickle!
Mom’s Carrot, Cauliflower and Turnip Pickle
- 500g carrots, cut into 2” long pieces (preferably red carrots)
- 500g cauliflower, cut into florets (use stems as well by cutting into 1” pieces)
- 500g turnips, cut into half and sliced into quarters
- 3.5 liters of water (about 14 cups)
- 50g ginger, roughly chopped
- 50g garlic, about 25 large cloves, peeled
- 1 cup sugarcane or malt vinegar
- 1 cup jaggery, grated (about 200g)
- 3 tablespoons Kashmiri chili powder
- 2½ tablespoons red chili powder
- 3 tablespoons black mustard, freshly ground into powder
- 3 tablespoons garam masala
- 3 tablespoons rock salt
- 1 cup mustard oil
For bottling: 2 sterilized 1-liter glass bottles
Boil water in a large stockpot. When boiling add cut vegetables, and blanch for 3-4 minutes.
Drain vegetables, pat dry, and allow vegetables to dry on trays preferably in the sun, for 2-3 hours.
Grind garlic and ginger in a grinder (without adding water) to get a course paste.
Heat vinegar on medium heat in a saucepan. Add jaggery and bring to boil. Keep on a slow boil for 8-10 minutes, until you get a thick sugar syrup. Do not overcook.
Heat mustard oil in a deep non-stick wok till it begins to smoke. Turn off heat. Add garlic and ginger paste and sauté in hot oil for a minute.
Add vegetables, Kashmiri chili powder, chili powder, ground mustard, garam masala and rock salt. Mix well until vegetables are evenly coated with oil and spices.
Add vinegar and sugar syrup, turn on heat, and allow vegetables to cook for 3-4 minutes until well coated in syrup. Remove from heat. Check seasonings.
Cool slightly. Fill in and store in 2 sterilized 1-liter glass bottles. Cover bottles with cloth until cool.
Keep covered bottles in bright sunlight, sealed for 3-4 days, shaking often. The sunlight helps to kill surface-level bacteria.
Preferably refrigerate, and keep daily quantities in smaller bottles.
Serve with Indian meals.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serve: Makes about 1.5 kgs of pickle
It is hard to replace any ingredients here. Kashmiri chili powder can be replaced with 2 tablespoons paprika or one tablespoon red chili powder. Carrots can be replaced with Daikon radish. The jaggery can be replaced with brown sugar. Other ingredients are critical to the flavor including the mustard oil. When removing pickle into smaller bottles, make sure surface is covered with oil. If not heat some mustard oil to smoking, allow to cool and pour over pickle. Use glass bottles, and to sterilize wash with boiling water (or boil in a large pot), washing and boiling covers as well. Allow to air dry.