Spicy green chili pickles. Mango pickles infused with fenugreek and cardamom. Bright yellow cauliflower pickles with turmeric. Indian achars are almost too good to be called condiments.
In fact, achars are a singularly versatile kind of pickle. They can be made from fruits or vegetables, and be made sweet, spicy, or sour depending on the spices and flavorings used. A small amount of gingery pickle might balance the flavors in a spicy curry while a sour one can serve as an appetizer with papadum. An achar can also be mixed with fresh vegetables to make a quick salad. No matter how they're used, these pickles are intended to enhance a dish and add new dimensions of flavor.
Unlike the vinegar based pickles common in the United States, these Indian pickles are usually made with oil. The high concentrations of salt and preserving spices like turmeric keep the pickles safe to eat for long periods of time, even without refrigeration. Traditionally, families in India make achar during the summer to serve with meals in the coming months.
Indian markets carry a wide range of commercially produced achar, but it's also very easy to make them at home:
• MangoThokku - Mango Pickle from Show Me The Curry
• Cauliflower Pickle from Indian Relish
• Gajar Achaar - Carrot Pickle from Khana Pakana
• Mirchi-Ka-Achar - Green Chili Pickle from My Creative Flavors
• Limbu Ka Achar - Lemon Pickle from PtitChef
Are you familiar with this Indian condiment? Do you have a favorite kind?
Related: Quick Weeknight Meal: Make-Ahead Indian Dal
(Image: Flickr member RMT licensed under Creative Commons)