Indian style pickle (achar) has little in common with pickles found in American supermarkets and pantries. Indian pickle is a pungently seasoned condiment preserved with salt and oil. It is, essentially, a product of fermentation, with salt permitting desirable bacteria to thrive while preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. Oil provides the anaerobic environment necessary for long term preservation.
This cranberry pickle was not made following authentic traditional methods, however the results are similar. I used cranberries which had fermented in salt brine for 30 days.
I mixed the fermented cranberries, chopped into quarters, with achar masala (spice mixture for making pickle).
I heated mustard oil to the smoking point (to eliminate bitterness), removed it from the heat and added chopped curry leaves, minced ginger, minced Serrano chili and minced turmeric.
Sale of mustard oil for human consumption is prohibited in the U. S. and parts of Europe because of the presence of erucic acid, which either causes heart disease or promotes heart health depending on the study — studies which administer the studied substance to small animals in dosages exceeding the amount a human could possibly consume in a lifetime. The unapologetic agnostic in me views such studies with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Negative “findings” on erucic acid have been questioned by others besides myself. Reports of detrimental impact on human health are nonexistent. Studies are never performed without funding, and funding always has some motivation behind it, not always altruistic.
Mustard oil is rich in essential omega 3 fatty acids, and that is a good thing. It also has a high smoke point, just below avocado and safflower oils. For centuries mustard seeds and mustard oil have held prominent positions in Indian cuisine. In fact, mustard oil is the preferred cooking oil in many parts of India, Nepal and Pakistan.
I emptied this bottle to make the cranberry pickle. As seldom as I use mustard oil, I didn’t hesitate to put it on the shopping list for my next visit to an Indian grocery store.
When the pan had sufficiently cooled I added the contents to the seasoned cranberries and adjusted the flavors with grated jaggery.
This cranberry pickle tastes great now, but after a few weeks in the refrigerator the flavors will develop to perfection.