Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Achard Revisited

Now a 'new' member of the Wells WI gourmet club, for my first evening I have made some preserves for our 'Curry Evening'.  As achard tends to be unknown in this area my host was keen for me to make some.  It is ages since I last made it.  It takes a lot of preparation if you are chopping my hand, and there have been many other jams, pickles and chutneys made and eaten.Many of them posted are posted my other blog: Mrs Mace Preserves.

Having to provide a  recipe sheet for each of the members of the club, I opted for a manageable amount of Achard, and  fine tuned quantities, and developed my own spice blend.

Achard using the salting method with cider vinegar giving a twist of Somerset

The following are prepared weights and is based on a small whole cabbage and cauliflower.  Weigh the ones you have, and adjust the other ingredients accordingly.

575g hard white cabbage, chopped into julienne sized pieces
500g tight cauliflower, subdivided into tiny florets which will look good in the pickle
200g carrots cuts into fine julienne about 5cm long
150g fine french green beans, cut on the cross into fine slivers
200g shallots or pickling onions, cut through the root end so as to keep pieces together

300ml cider vinegar
50g  unrefined sea salt

4 large garlic cloves
50g crushed fresh ginger

125g cold pressed virgin rapeseed oil

Olive oil to dress the tops of the jars

Achard Spice Mix

3 level tablespoons ground turmeric, 1 tablespoon dark mustard seeds, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, one or two small dried chillies or to taste.  Put the spices all except 1 tsp mustard seeds and put through a spice grinder...not over fine. Mix in the whole mustard seeds, and set aside until needed.

Pack the prepared onions tightly  into a kilner jar or similar, cover with all the vinegar, cover and leave steeping at room temperature overnight.

Prepare all the other vegetables, except for the ginger and garlic,  the afternoon of day 1.  Place them in a large strong plastic bag, toss in all the salt, and turn with your hand.

Squeeze down the bag, to exclude as much air as possible, and shut it tightly with a clip.

Move and turn the bag around a few times over the next two to three hours to distribute the brine.

Place the bag of vegetables and brine in the fridge overnight.

 Overnight, the vegetables in the bag 'wilt' visibly as water is removed under osmosis.

 After 24 hours, cut a corner off the bag, and drain off the fluid, squeezing the bag. Then in a colander, quickly rinse the vegetables in very hot water in batches, then squeezed them very thoroughly in clean kitchen tea towels, to dry them as much as possible.

In a large pan heat the oil , then added all the spices, ginger and garlic, and cooked these gently stirring for five minutes on a gentle heat...taking care as they should not scorch or stick to the pan.

Add the drained onions, and cooked these for a couple of minutes. Add all the vegetables and  toss and turn these in the oil, with the heat still on.  Add as much of the vinegar from the onions to give a good coasting to the vegetables.  Stir for a minute or two...that's all the cooking done!  Taste and add a little salt according to taste.  Take care, it is better to add salt at the serving stage later, when you have tasted the mature achard.

Pack the pickle very tightly into sterilized  jars, pressing layers with the back of a strong spoon or similar.  Run a spoonful of oil over the top to form a seal.  Close the lids.  As soon as the achard is cool, store the jars in the fridge.

This achard needs at least a couple of weeks to mature in the fridge, then ought to be eaten within the following six weeks.

To serve, place in a bowl, and flick through with a will look like a dressed salad.  Do not return to the jar, but keep and eat within a day once taken out of the jar.

In Mauritius this sugar free pickle is traditionally eaten as a side dish to curry and rice, and great in crunchy sourdough type rolls with cheese.

Its interesting to ponder the history or origins of the Mauritian Achard.  My father was born to French and Portuguese settlers to the Island and the family were great entertainers having the whole extended family for 'banquets' where over 50 fifty people would congregate for New Year's day lunch.  I am sure Achard would be on the table. 

My father explained that before refrigeration, and particularly when there was a glut of vegetables, it was an effective way of preparing in advance and preserving  large amounts of vegetables.  The jars or most probably large stoneware jars of pickles were also easier and safer to transport.  In the heat of tropics a cabbage or cauliflower can go to seed in just a few days, or even when picked, without refrigeration will be spoilt in less than half a day.

The pickle also adds that tang which aids digestion to plainer dishes of rice, lentils, and meat or fish curries.


  1. Here we spell it achar. Mine is bought, but I dollop it on soup, or a cooked meal which is too bland. It adds attractive colour, crunch, and flavour.

    1. You have it's the crunch that is really interesting, which one does not get with most chutneys.