Sunday, 7 August 2011

Mauritian Achard a variation developed by my father

I've been meaning to make this pickle for so many years, and at last it is made. For several weeks I have been researching this, and came across a fellow Mauritian who writes a blog called Inspired to Bake

Prerrna's recipe for Achard uses the blanching technique. I remember 'elders' talking about putting vegetables out in the sun to dehydrate somewhat as a start to preservation. However I remember several bouts of achard making at home when I was a child, with used neither of these.

Back in 2001 when I asked my mother for the recipe, she explained that my father had devised a different process that started the pickle off by salting the vegetables. I know it is 2001, because after lots of searching, which is something I DO NOT LIKE TO DO, I have found a copy of the original printed out email from Mum and Lizzie. Lizzie has only just made Achard in Australia, and having been warned that hers was a little on the salty side, I was very careful with the washing away of the brine phase. My father was a thorough scientist both academic and practical so I have followed his system.

On Thursday which is market day, I bought two firm and tight cauliflowers, a tight cabbage, some carrots, and as there were no small pickling onions, used two large onions, the first of the french beans from the garden, some fresh ginger about two inches of a plump root, 5 cloves ofgarlic, organic cider vinegar, oil, sea salt, and 1/3 of a packet of Achard Spice brought for me from Mauritius, and olive oil. It took me some time chopping all the vegetables, which more than filled the largest of my bread mixing bowls.

Except for the chopped onions, which were packed very firmly into a jar, and immersed under vinegar, the rest of the vegetables, minus garlic and ginger, went into a large plastic bag. Into this I tossed three small handfuls of coarse unrefined sea salt, then squeezed down the bag, to exclude as much air as possible, and shut it tightly. Over the next day, the vegetables in the bag 'wilted' visibly as water was removed under osmosis. Every so often, I moved the bag around, to distribute the brine, and after 24 hours, cut a corner off the bag, and drained off the fluid. Then in a colander, I quickly rinsed the vegetables in very hot water in batches, then squeezed them very thoroughly in clean kitchen cloths.

In my largest pan, I put a teacup of oil to heat, and added all the spices, ginger and garlic, and cooked these gently. I added the drained onions, and cooked these for a couple of minutes. That's all the cooking that is required. All the vegetables are then added, and tossed and turned in the oil. It was at that stage that I was wondering what to do with the drained off vinegar. I added a spoonful or two, and tasted, and in the end I put all the vinegar in. I followed the instructions of putting the whole lot in the fridge when cold enough, then every few hours, turning the mixture. The next day, following instructions, I packed the archard very tighly into jars, then ran a spoonful of olive oil, over the top to form a seal. Its strange to think that all those vegetables eventually fitted only five jars.

So in this Achard there seems to be several methods of preservation: brining, preserving spices, and I wonder whether any anoerobic fermentation takes place as in sauerkraut, but maybe this is inhibited by the vinegar present. I remember that made in this way the Achard keeps in the fridge for several weeks. At home it was very much a making and sharing activity, with about five jars made, and three given away....Looks like I am carrying on this tradition.

Already two jars are with other Mauritians: Marie-Claire and Jenny, and a third is promised to Rita.

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