For most Indians, pickles are an intrinsic part of their lives. Don’t we all have childhood memories of some particular achaar or chutney made by mom or aunty or naani or even an uncle? A flavour that instantly evokes memories of another time. I remember my favourites being the delicious sweet mango pickled with limestone; or the beef/chicken vinegared with kala jeera and mustard oil pickles we were sent in our tuck boxes to boarding school. To date, it remains my favourite go-to comfort food that required just steamed rice for company. Not only did it give us reasons to finish the boring food on the plate; it also got those essential gastric juices flowing. There’s really nothing quite like a home-made pickle to recreate the comfort of home, wherever you may be. The current trend of home-made pickles seems to only reinforce this further.
Pickles are available in every other store, but there is a reason why home-made pickles are garnering all the attention. The prime reasons being: health and taste, thereby giving an upward push to home-makers who are selling pickles with the business being run from home. The best part of the story is how home pickle makers are getting creative with ingredients. Says Suman Sood of the brand Pickles and More, “I belong to Himachal Pradesh but I operate from my current home in Delhi. Pickle making is something I have been doing all my life, a skill that my grandmother bequeathed to me, like ancestral treasure. So when I thought of setting up a home business, it had to be pickles.” She makes almost 50 varieties of pickles and is helped by both her daughters in the venture that they call ‘personalised’ because everything is made only by her. Natural preservatives and good quality localised are the USP of her pickles. “Bhoot Jolokia from Assam, turmeric from Bihar, oil from Kolkata, the best seasonal vegetables from Himachal; the reason for this is to get the most flavourful pickles,” says Sood. Apart from her traditional best-sellers like Aam, Nimbu Mirchi, Gobi Gajar Shalgam, Pyaaz Achar, tangy Aloo Matar, Himachali lungdoo, the pahadi chukh, khatta meetha Baingan, she also does a western take with Olives and Jalapeno. And business is brisk.
A bit further away, in Mumbai, is yet another home entrepreneur, who makes pickles with the same enthusiasm as her counterpart in Delhi. Inderpreet (Rummy) Nagpal, originally from Amritsar, makes you customised pickles with less oil, salt, and sugar and according to your dietary requirements. “I supply my home-made pickles both in India and abroad. My mom and mom-in-law are both terrific cooks and I learnt everything from them,” says the lady whose brand is called Herbs and Spices. Her kitchen can bottle anything from the usual traditional favourites to novel pickles containing bhindi, kundru, jack fruit, potato, Kamal kakdi, guava, kachaloo along with varieties of fish like prawns, Surmail, keema, pork, and chicken. “I think the best masalas are South Indian and Punjabi for pickles as they’re simply unputdownable,” she says.
Given the fact that people are turning more health conscious every day, it is indeed a blessing that pickle making traditions are being revived and these days, most home grown pickle makers are available in every nook and cranny of the area where you live. Bharti Gupta of Chutur Putur pickles which operates from her home in Ghaziabad and is a relatively new entrant to this area of business says, “Pickles are part of our heritage, our lives and for people like me, who have always made pickles to give away to family and friends; the current trend of revisiting grandmas pickles is a boon.” At present, she has about ten varieties, but is looking to expand more, given the high demand. We’re not surprised, everyone wants to relive the magic of mom’s kitchen!