I’d said that I wasn’t sure if I’d have any recipes this month either (I last posted one in mid-August) on account of the backlog of restaurant write-ups I need to put up. But then earlier this week I improvised this pork pickle and it came out so well that I couldn’t resist throwing a quick recipe up. It is extremely easy (though not extremely healthy) and if the notion of pork pickle seems odd—we’re not talking Western-style pickled meats here, but an Indian-style pickle/achaar with pork in place of a vegetable—just think of it as confit of pork shoulder with Indian spices. It’s very rich and a little goes a long way. But you can eat it with rice and dal, with chapatis or parathas, and you can even make sandwiches with it. It’s delicious and versatile and, as I already said, it’s very easy to make. The toughest part is to resist eating it on the first or second day as it “matures”.
Meat pickles might seem like an unusual idea but they are actually made by various communities in India—more, I’m inclined to say in the South than in the North. I’ve eaten them in Hyderabad and in the homes of Goan, Malayali and Anglo-Indian friends. There are shifts in approach between regions but different homes in each region have their own twists and tweaks. My recipe here does not follow any particular regional style. I make a lot of vegetable pickles at home and I cook a lot of pork and figuring out a pork pickle didn’t seem like a complicated task.
- Pork shoulder, 2 lbs, cubed (you should have 2 lbs of cubed meat)
- Ginger and garlic, 1 heaped tblspn each, grated
- The following coarsely ground together: 5-10 hot, dried red chillies, 2 tblspns coriander seeds, 1.5 tblspns cumin seeds, 1 tblspn black peppercorns, 1/2 tblspn black mustard seeds, 1/2 tblspn fennel seeds,1/4 tblspn fenugreek seeds
- Turmeric powder, 1/2 tblspn
- Sugar, 1/4-1 cup
- Apple cider vinegar, 2 cups
- 2 tblspns mustard oil (preferably) or peanut or grapeseed oil
- Heat the oil and once it’s begun to smoke (in the case of mustard oil) or once it’s very hot (in the case of other oils) add the grated ginger and garlic and saute till it becomes fragrant (this will happen very quickly and you don’t want it to burn).
- Add the cubed pork and the salt, mix in thoroughly and fry over medium-high heat till the pork has begun to brown and most of the liquid it sheds has dried up.
- Now add the ground spices and turmeric, mix thoroughly and fry over medium heat for a few minutes till very fragrant.
- Add the sugar and vinegar, mix in, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook covered for about 30 minutes.
- Then uncover the pot and cook, stirring once in while to prevent sticking till the pork is tender and the sauce is clinging to the meat. The pork fat should have rendered and the oil and fat should have separated completely from the spices and meat.
- Cool and ladle into jars. Store in a cool spot in your kitchen or in your fridge.
- Vary the sugar to taste. With one cup of sugar to two cups of apple cider vinegar you will end up with a sweet and sour pickle. Some people prefer no sweetness at all in meat pickles and so if you want to leave the sugar out completely you’ll be in good company.
- Likewise, you can make this very hot or just a bit hot as you prefer.
- There’s so much acid in this that storing it outside the fridge is really not an issue—though you might not want to leave it out for more than a week. The pickle will “mature” better outside the fridge—so maybe leave it out for at least 1-3 days. If you’re nervous about this go ahead and refrigerate it but pull it out a few hours before eating it so that the fat melts and it comes to room temperature. (You eat it like any Indian pickle, so there’s no need to heat it.)
- I’m so happy with how this turned out that I’m going to make a beef pickle this weekend with a small chuck roast and experiment with a different mix of spices.
- As noted above, this is best after it has “matured” for a day or two, so see if you can resist digging in.