In our backyard grows a big mango tree, which bears fruits every couple of years. As we are competing with a gang of notorious monkeys I’ve never gotten any of its ripe fruits, but you can trick them and pluck your share while they are still young and sour. Mangoes in India (similar to jackfruits) are used in various stages of ripening and can be used in savory dishes or enjoyed as a sweet fruit. There are many uses for unripe mangoes – they get dried and grind to a powder (amchur powder), turned into a tangy summer drink (aam panna), sprinkled with chili salt as a snack or sun-dried and preserved in oil and spices.
I guess most of my readers don’t have a mango tree in their backyard and won’t need a recipe for pickled green mangoes and even in India, where mangoes are abundant, nowadays less people preserve mangoes themselves as a huge variety of commercial pickles and chutneys are available. I was also not particularly interested in cutting and drying kilos of mangoes and if it weren’t for our gardener I would have never attempted this project. He basically forced me into it with first dropping off sacks full of green mangoes at our house, than bringing his wife Devi to show me how to do it and finally uncovering a glass full of preserved mangoes from last years harvest. After trying a spoonful of the pickle my husband and me were very impressed – the mangoes were still a bit acidic but tasted incredible savory with a pleasant meaty texture. It seemed magical how the sour fruits had turned into these little umami flavor bombs and I was now very willing to spend my entire weekend with cutting and drying of mangoes.
My husband remembered that his grandmother used to preserve mangoes that way, but in the generation of his parents already many traditional recipes were not used anymore. Since his childhood he hadn’t eaten anything comparable and got really excited about the flavor of the homemade pickle. The preserved mangoes made me wonder one more time how many recipes and how much flavor already got lost through the industrialization of our food ?
The family of our gardener still made their own pickles as they are poor and preserving mangoes means a cheap way to enhance their diet and stock up their supplies. A few pieces of preserved mangoes, with rotis (flatbread) and sliced onions can be a simple but satisfying meal.
If you don’t have a mango tree in your backyard you’ll maybe still be thinking that the recipe is pretty useless to you, but you can also preserve other vegetables in a similar way and I’ll update about that later. Till then I hope I maybe could inspire someone to see what’s ripe wherever you live and ask some grandmother for a recipe for how to preserve it.
Sun-dried Green Mango Pickle
You will find 2 variations of the spice mixture, please choose one, both are equally delicious. As every family in India has their own recipe there are probably a million more ways to make it. These are the 2 recipes I learned from Devi, the wonderful wife of our gardener Jadav.
- 2,5 kilo young, green mangoes
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
Spice mixture 1
- 30 gram fennel seeds
- 40 gram fenugreek seeds
- 20 gram ajwain seeds
- 12 cloves
- 14 gram turmeric powder
- 3 gram chili powder
- 40 gram salt
- 120 ml mustard oil
Spice mixture 2
- 15 gram fenugreek seeds
- 15 gram fennel seeds
- 5 gram ajwain seeds
- 20 gram coriander powder
- 8 gram turmeric powder
- 7 gram chili powder
- 12 gram garam masala powder
- 40 gram salt
- 120 ml mustard oil
You will need an additional 1/2 liter mustard oil or so. The amount will depend on the size of the jar and how tight you pack the mangoes in it.
Wash the mangoes with skin thoroughly and let them dry completely. Then half them completely (the seed of the young mangoes is still soft so you can cut through them completely), cut in quarters. Remove the inner part of the seed (this is the part which will fall out easily), the skin of the seed which is attached to the flesh of the mango should stay.
Rub the mangoes evenly with the salt and turmeric powder and spread them on a sheet to let them dry in the sun. (I did let them dry for 1, 5 days in the sun, in the night I did bring them back in). You could also dry them in the oven or a dehydrator (50 - 60 degrees). They don't have to be completely dry, but most of the moisture should have evaporated and the skins start to turn greyish. Drying helps to preserve them for longer. You can skip this step if you plan to eat the pickle relatively fresh.
Choose which spice mix you wanna use and measure the spices accordingly and mix them. Warm the mustard oil slightly, pour over the spices and mix everything. Once the mixture has cooled down distribute it evenly over the mango pieces. With clean hands or a big spoon try to rub in the spices as even as possible till all mangoes are covered with the paste.
Sterilize a big glass jar with boiling water and let it dry completely. Fill in the mangoes and cover the jar with a piece of cloth and a rubber band. Keep the jar in the full sun for another 2 days. This helps to "cook" the pickle and let the mangoes absorb the flavor of the spices fully. A few hours in a slightly heated oven should do the same (50 - 60 degrees).
Once all this is done fill up the glass jar with some mustard oil, so that the mangoes are fully dispensed in it (warm and cool down the mustard oil, before pouring). Now you can close the glasses with the original lid of the jar and keep it at a dark place to ripen further.
You can already eat the mangoes after a week, but I think they are even better after a longer resting phase.
Work as clean as possible (wash your hands properly, use clean utensils, etc) to ensure a long storage life.
The highly aromatic oil in which the mangoes are preserved can be used later for cooking, salads or drizzling over rice or steamed vegetables to aromatize them.