Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Version of Kerala Karela Lemon Pickle

When I was in Kumarakom, Kerala in January, I enjoyed many food delights at the resort, ranging but not limited to their egg podimas in the morning, and their assortment of fish dishes at lunch or dinner. But one thing that really tickled me was the array of pickles they offered daily.

One pickle in particular caught my fascination, and it was a combination of karela (bitter gourd) with lemon. Now thanks to Manisha at Indian Food Rocks, I've pretty much mastered the concept of sun pickling; however, I've never actually cooked pickle. I wonder if the karela pickle would lend itself well to sun pickling, tho I cannot see why it wouldn't work, given the acid or bitter content.

So I've been on a quest. Yes, first was the kadampuli/gamboge quest which so far has turned up some puli so I can try a fish curry soon. Now, I'm on a quest for the perfect pickle which has two of my fave things in it, bitter gourd and lemon.

I asked my mother-in-law for some ideas regarding the karela pickle. She gave me a quick fry type pickle. I am not sure what the shelf life in the fridge is with this. I always have to think of how quickly something might be used before I make an item, as depending, I could be the only person eating it for a while.

So I took amma's lead, and MacGuyver'd a good facsimile of the karela pickle I enjoyed in Kerala:
Oh Dear, Doing instant pickle is easy. You can make multi veg. pickles too. Make small pieces of pavakkai and fry this in heated oil after mustard and add some turmeric powder, salt and chilly powder, perungaya powder and after it cools adds some lemon juice. Stir well. After a day or two, keep in the fridge. You can do any vegetables [carrot, cabbage, beans etc] like this. It needs more oil than normal. Take care. Lovingly, Amma.

1 decent sized Karela/pavakkai/bitter gourd firm, bright green, no blemishes
1 small lemon plump with a good thick, healthy looking rind
1 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp fenugreek seed
Chile pepper, cut into very fine strips (to taste)
Big pinch salt
Small pinch turmeric
Perungaya/hing/asafatoeida powder (to taste)
Chile powder (to taste)
Optional: ground black pepper (to taste)
Optional: a few tablespoons of grated carrot (just for color/interest)


1. Thoroughly wash the bitter gourd and lemon well. I scrub with a Scotch Brite pad and dish soap and rinse thoroughly. Cut the nub ends off the lemon and the gourd and discard. Cut the gourd lengthwise into two pieces, then scoop out seeds with a spoon (and discard seeds). Slice into thin (1/8th inch thick) half moons and put in big glass (or other non-reactive) bowl. Slice lemon in half, and half again, and cut into thin slices (discarding pits). Put into bowl with the gourd slices.

*Note: the seeds/arils of the gourd must be removed, as they can be toxic to eat.

2. Put salt and turmeric in bowl and toss to coat well. Let sit for about 20 minutes.

3. Heat about 1 T. oil (gingelly or peanut would be good) and fry mustard and fenugreek seeds until they start to splutter and sizzle and add fine strips of chile pepper. Add a dash or two of hing, and then add the lemon and gourd slices. Fry well for about 3-5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of boiling water to the bowl that had the lemon and gourd. Swish this around to be sure to get all the lemon juice and gourd juice that might remain, and add this to the skillet it cooks to keep contents from sticking to pan and to get all tasty bits off the pan and into the pickle.

4. Taste back of spoon. Is it salty enough? Spicy? If not, add a pinch more salt, and add a bit of red chile powder to taste. At this point I add a bit of black pepper, because I adore it. Finish cooking until the bitter gourd is fork tender but not mushy. Take off heat. Let cool.

5. Put contents in a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Add a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice to this, give a good stir, and let sit in fridge overnight for optimal taste.

Makes approximately 8 oz/half pint of pickle, which I hope will last more than a week or two in the fridge.

Being I'm neither Tamilian, nor a traditionalist, I plan on eating this pickle to accompany shrimp cocktail with my lunch.

As an aside, I've decided to give container gardening a whirl for this spring/summer, and have planted a few seeds of bitter gourd as well as ridge gourd. In keeping with the theme of this post, the smaller of the two seedlings pictured is bitter gourd. One seedling so far, and seems there's another one about to burst thru the soil any moment now. I brought these containers to work and placed them in a great window w/plenty of direct sunlight and hope they will really take off and grow and get robust enough for me to plant in a larger container on my balcony. I've forgotten what the germination time is for both, but the ridge gourd sprouted earlier than the bitter gourd.


Nisa Homey said...

Hey, thanks for stopping by, I think I overlooked your comment regarding your pickle query, I make a karela and carrot pickle and have posted on my blog (long back). I am glad you had a wonderful stay at Kumarakom, which actually is my mom's place. Need any help to make fish curry or karimeenpollichathu do not hesitate to contact me via my email. nisahomey@gmail.com...see u around..

Maven said...

Nisa, thanks so much for stopping by! I really appreciate it!