Topa Kuler Achaar (sweet and sour jujube pickle)6:12 AM
It's that time of the year again when the weather is more whimsical than me during my PMS. Somedays it's warm beyond reason and makes us feel is it summer already in February but come morning the nip in the air makes you cold. As a result the kids are taking turn in bringing home some unwanted bugs.
First it was the daughter who came down with a bacterial infection similar to chicken pox. She had blisters allover her body and scalp without fever or body ache. Now that she is recovering Friday son came home with high fever and headache. On such days I dont feel like doing anything as there's nothing more heart breaking than to see your child suffer. Glad that they are small and are easily cheered on. A batch of cookies here and some drawing sessions there make them happy. and when their smile comes back I am assured that there's everything right with this World.
Having said that one thing that is naggingly worries me these days is this sudden changes in weather. Even five years back there were clear demarcations of weather. Spring came with full glory with a very pleasant weather and colours everywhere. Now not even winter stays for more than a couple of months that too has become so warm. Global Warming definitely is a reality, the quickly we recognize that the better.
The recipe that am sharing today has nothing to do with it. but the fact that with growing urbanisation these fruits might soon become a distant reality makes me sad. Also this year when I first saw them in the market I had this strange urge to make the pickle. I never had made it before as it was Maa who would make it year after year for us. She would ask her artisans to book trees so that when the fruits ripen she could take them home and make big batches of pickle to give to everyone in the family.
But not this year.
With a small bottle of her pickle still on the shelf I knew I had to make it.
I knew I needed to get it right.
So here it is, her simple recipe but without the magic of her hands. I wish I could recreate that...
Topa kul is availbale in three stages of maturity. The raw ones are quite astringent in taste but the mature ones are light greenish in colour and firm in texture. They are quite tart but delicious marinated with salt and chili pepper. The ripe one are red in clour (as in picture), mushy, tart and little slimey. The red ones are best to make this pickle with. but choose them carefully while buying. They are easily infested with worms. press a few between your fingers to check how fresh they are. Buy the ones that are fully ripe.
Topa kuler Achaar
Topa kul/ Jujbe: the ripe ones: 1250 gms
Sugarcane jaggery: 1 kg (more or less depending on the tartness of the jujubes)
Panchforon: 2 tsps
Dry red chillies: 5-6
Mustard oil: 1 cup
Vinegar: 1/4 cup
Cumin seeds: 1 tbsp
Coriander seeds: 1 tsp
Fennel seeds: 1 tsp
Dry red chilli: 8 pieces
First we need to prepare the jujubes for pickling.
Wash the jujubes to get rid of all the dirt, Remove the stem and spread them on a kitchen towel to dry. After a couple of hours when there is no extra moisture press each jujube between your fingers to open the skin up. Place on a big plate and sun dry them for a whole day.
Heat 1 cup of oil till it smokes, add the panchforon and let it splutter. Add the Jujubes and sprinkle some salt and turmeric. Stir to coat the jujubes and cook on medium for 5-7 minutes or till the jujubes start to release water. Take out in another big bowl.
now if your jaggery is dry and hard then add a cup of water to the pan. Break the jaggery in small pieces and add to the water. Add little salt and bring it to a boil. Lot of froth with impurities will come on top. Remove that and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
If your jaggery is semi liquid then pour it in the pan with 1/2 cup of water and bring it to a boil. Now add the cooked jujubes, vinegar and mix. Cook on medium for 5-7 minutes and then switch off the flame. Cover and let it rest for a 12 hours. This will help the jujubes absorb the syrup.
Next day dry roast all the ingredients mentioned under bhaja masala. Do this on very low flame and by constant stirring to bring out all the flavours. When the seeds turn darker in colour take them off the pan. Cool and grind to a coarse powder.
Switch on the flame on the jujube mixture and cook it by stirring from time to time. Mix in 11/2 tbsp of the bhaja masala and mix. The idea here is to dry up the extra moisture. Mine got cooked within 10 minutes and oil started to float. Add more bhaja masala if you like. Mix and take off from heat.
Let it come to room temperature before storing in sterilised glass or ceramic jars.
This stays well for upto 2 years if you keep it in a dry cold place and strictly follow no moisture. no dirty hand/spoon in the pickle rule.