Amla or the Indian Gooseberry is one of the richest sources of Vitamin C. Making it a part of your daily diet can help you enjoy immense health benefits due to its key role in tissue repair, immunity development, digestion, in treating liver damage and as an anti-inflammatory agent. It also contributes majorly in enhancing skin and hair quality, vision as well as reducing the effects of pollutants on the body. Try out this unique Amla pickle recipe that will tickle your taste buds and provide you with its healing properties.
While the world is waking up to the benefits of probiotics in pickles and promoting pickle juices for maintaining good gut health, pickles have always been a conspicuous part of the traditional Indian diet since ancient times. Spiced up with health enhancing condiments, these fermented foods have played a major role in our staple diet of chapatti, rice, dal, vegetables and salad. In fact, a meal of rice, dal and curd (yoghurt) would majorly lack in health benefits without the humble pickle.
In recent times, rice is increasingly being side-lined as a high glycaemic index food by health conscious weight watchers, what is less commonly known is that you cannot consider foods in isolation to understand how they affect your blood sugar levels.
Foods that are high in protein, fats and fermented foods, when eaten in combination with rice, tend to inhibit the spike in blood sugar levels.
For instance, it is a combination of rice, dal, ghee and pickle that successively brings down the glycaemic index of rice and makes it a reasonably safe food for consumption. A case in point is the staple diet of the south Indian population, which consists predominantly of rice, dal, fish, meat, vegetables and pickles. Yet their blood sugar levels are not exactly skyrocketing.
However, a word of caution — store-bought pickles are high in salt (Sodium Chloride), and can raise your blood pressure. So you are advised to consult a doctor and test your sodium levels before including pickles in your diet.
While the proportion of salt in commercially sold pickles is higher due to its use as a preservative to enhance shelf-life, the good thing about home-made pickles is that you can reduce the proportion of salt in the pickle to your liking, prepare them in small batches and store them in the refrigerator. This will allow you to enjoy the health benefits of pickles, without developing a spike in your blood pressure.
Why pickles (fermented foods) can be good for you
With the exhaustive list of health benefits in every condiment used in the Indian pickle, one needs to look no further to understand why it has always been an integral part of the Indian diet. No meal was complete without the humble pickle during my grandparents’ times.
Topping the list of benefits are the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties of these ingredients. Rich in vitamins and minerals, pickles also help us meet the daily requirement of these vital micronutrients.
Little wonder then that modern day diseases like cancer, high blood pressure, chronic heart ailments, diabetes and obesity were a rare occurrence during those times.
When we cook food, a lot of the ant-oxidants get destroyed due to heating.
Pickling raw and unripe vegetables and fruits, on the other hand, preserves these anti-oxidants. The fermentation process further benefits the gut bacteria, which play a significant role in keeping us healthy and disease-free.
This is precisely the reason why we should bring back the home-made Indian pickle on our dining table. Prepare your pickles with less salt, if you have been advised by the doctor to have a low salt diet. You can reduce the salt proportion to your permissible limit and instead use a few spoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to preserve the pickle.
Health Benefits of pickles
Home-made pickles also offer a host of benefits due to the ingredients that go into making them. Using ingredients such as mustard, fenugreek, fennel, turmeric, pink Himalayan salt and Kosher (coarse) salt, chilli powder, turmeric, asafoetida, peppercorns and sesame oil for seasoning, home-made pickles have the below-mentioned properties and offer a host of health benefits:
|Vegetables/fruits||Vitamin A, B, C, antioxidants||Builds immunity, cell repair, anti-inflammatory|
|Fenugreek||Vitamin A,B,D, Antioxidants, iron||Regulates blood sugar, reduces blood pressure, anti-cancerous, improves lactation, enhances skin and hair quality, aids in digestion, anti-inflammatory|
|Mustard||Selenium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc, omega-3-fatty acids,||Anti-inflammatory, lowers high blood pressure, in asthma, migraine and rheumatoid arthritis, anti-cancerous|
|Fennel||Powerful essential oil, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese||Anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial. Aids digestion, immunity, tissue repair, collagen synthesis, bone health, metabolism, lowers risk of chronic conditions like cardiac disease, type 2 diabetes, neurological disorders|
|Turmeric||Curcumin||Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, also stimulates the body’s innate antioxidant enzymatic activity against free radicals, improves brain function and lowers risk of brain disease, cancer and heart disease, studies on curcumin have gained traction in treating cancers, Alzheimer’s Disease, arthritis, depression and other chronic conditions|
|Chilli powder||Capsaicin, Vitamin C||Anti-inflammatory, analgesic – relieves pain, aids in fat burning, weight loss, reduces cholesterol and triglycerides, chronic sinus conditions|
|Pink (Himalayan)/ Kosher/iodised salt||Mined rock salt rich in sodium and 84 different trace minerals and elements such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc. Kosher salt is coarse salt, rich in trace minerals and elements. Iodised salt or table salt contains added iodine||Antacid, anti-flatulent, carminative, mild anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, sodium regulates the transfer/exchange of nutrients/toxins through cell membrane|
|Asafoetida||Resin or gum of ferula plant rich in sulphur compounds, tannins, flavonoids,||Anti-flatulent, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, used in treating bronchitis, kidney stones, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, lowers blood pressure, reduces blood sugar, anti-asthmatic, protects brain health|
|Peppercorns||Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, E, and trace amounts of phosphorus, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phenolic compounds||Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, aids digestion and detoxification, used in weight loss, anti-cancerous, regulates heart rate and high blood pressure, treats respiratory diseases, joint pain, depression, improves metabolism, breaks down fat, builds immunity by improving absorption of curcumin by 2000% when consumed with turmeric|
|Sesame oil||Vitamin E, mono and poly-unsaturated fatty acids, phenolic antioxidants||Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, lowers blood pressure, nourishes skin and hair|
The amla pickle is just the right accompaniment to your rice and dal. Its tangy and sweet aftertaste will have your digestive juices flowing even before you begin your meal. Most Indian pickles have the same basic ingredients, with minor variations based on regional preferences. I use a combination of spices, which not only goes well with amla, but also with other alternatives such as green mango, lime, green chilli, red chilli, ginger and others.
Since pickles are stored over longer periods, there are a few important considerations and instructions that need to be followed strictly to ensure they do not get spoilt.
You can safely store them in a good condition for a longer period by adhering to these care instructions:
- Wash medium-sized glass pickle jars in warm water and soap and dry them well before using them for bottling your pickles. Ensure they have air-tight lids that do not allow air and moisture to enter the jar.
- Select small jars so that you can open one at a time, until the pickle finishes. This way, you can store the pickle for a longer duration. The chances of spoilage due to repeated exposure to air and moisture also get minimised.
- While preparing the pickles, doubly ensure that the cutting board, knives, spoons and mixing bowl are clean and dry, and devoid of any moisture or dust as this could lead to contamination.
- Store the bottles in the refrigerator to enhance its shelf life. The pickle can last for a good 2-3 months without any problem, even if you reduce the salt level significantly. To be extra cautious, you can add 3-4 teaspoons of vinegar to ensure the pickles are well-preserved and do not get spoilt. The extra acidity helps in prolonging the shelf-life of pickles, without adversely affecting its probiotic quality and nutrients.
- While serving pickles, always ensure your hands are clean and dry. Do not drop other food stuffs or water into the pickle jar. Always use a clean and dry serving spoon to serve the pickle. Remove the spoon, replace the lid tightly and place the jar back in the refrigerator, once your meal is over.
- In rare instances, if the pickle gets spoilt, it will give off a strange odour and you will see mould/fungus growing on the top layer. Immediately discard the pickle as it is unfit for consumption.
With these care instructions dispensed, let us now look at the ingredients for pickling the amla:
|Pink Himalayan and Kosher salt||1 tbsp each|
|Chilli powder||2 tbsp or as per taste|
|Turmeric powder||1 tbsp|
|Sesame oil||3 tbsp|
|Asafoetida powder||½ tsp|
|Black peppercorns||2 tsp|
|Apple cider vinegar||2 tbsp (optional)|
Method of preparation
- Wash and dry amla properly to remove all moisture. Deseed and cut into bite-sized segments or pieces and place in a clean, dry mixing bowl.
- Lightly roast the fenugreek and fennel seeds together on a slow flame to remove any moisture. Remove into a plate and allow to cool. Grind the roasted fennel and fenugreek and mustard into a coarse powder.
- To prepare the tempering, heat sesame oil on a low flame till it begins to smoke. Remove immediately from heat and after a few seconds, add the powdered asafoetida and peppercorns to the oil. Allow to cool fully. This step is optional. I have not added tempering in this amla pickle. Either way, it works just fine.
- In a mixing bowl, take the amla pieces and add the ground condiment mixture. Add the chilli powder, turmeric, salt and sugar and mix well with a clean spoon. You can add apple cider vinegar, if you desire, to preserve the pickle (optional).
- Spoon into the pickle jars and cover with air-tight lid. Store in the refrigerator. After a day or two, stir the pickles with a long spoon and place back in the refrigerator.
- Your pickle will be ready for consumption after a week. As the fermentation process progresses, the amla absorbs the flavours of the spices and mellows down.
Enjoy these pickles every day as a tasty and healthy accompaniment to your meals. You can prepare and gift them to your friends too.
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Until my next, happy pickling!