Keralites always relish hot, spicy pickles or achars, especially during lunch time and dinner.
The most popular of the pickles of Kerala are made of mangoes – you have tender mango pickles, dry mango pickles, sliced mango pickles etc. Next in line is Citrus lime pickle. This again comes in various tastes and shapes. Others include ginger and garlic pickles, gooseberry pickles, vegetable pickles, chilli pickles, prawn pickles, seer fish pickles and so on.
Today the fine art of pickle making handed down generations is on the verge of dying out. This is largely due to the great transition from large joint families to nuclear families, changes in lifestyles and occupations over the years. In olden days pickles in large quantities were made under the supervision of the elder female members of the joint family, and stored in huge air tight jars or China jars called bharani. Utmost care was taken to prepare these preserves in a clean and dry atmosphere to ensure that the pickle remained fresh and free of fungus until the next season.
Heated gingili or coconut oil would be used in large quantities so that there would be a fairly deep layer of oil at the top of the jar. The jar would then be closed with a lid, covered with cloth and sometimes left under the ground to make sure that there would be absolutely no air contact.
Today, these huge pickle bharanis have become curios and flower pots in large mansions and hotels, or are on display in museums.
But the very thought of the pickles still makes mouths water. And thanks to the mushrooming pickle manufacturing units and their wide range of pickles, which, though not entirely, are able to retain the aroma and taste of the traditional pickles, helping Keralite to have a hearty meal.