Thursday, October 25, 2012

To Pickle Green Peppercorns

Many local markets here have one shop selling what can only be termed miscellanea.  These shopkeepers look askew when one asks if they stock the onion-potato kind of vegetables, they refuse to have anything to do with fresh greens and are uninterested in exotic imported vegetables.  Instead, they display an assorted collection of small pickings of the season.  Things like fresh, pale yellow turmeric, new ginger in its wafer-thin skin, green mangoes for pickles, bitter orange, mango-ginger or large red chillies for chutneys.  Shopping at these stalls is tricky for you never find the same selection twice and it's impossible to complain about quality or price for lack of comparison.  But it's also quite a treat see the assorted collection and to be able to buy something unusual; a reminder of things that we have forgotten about in our supermarket-driven shopping.

Last week, I was buying some stems of ginger, translucent and freshly dug out of the ground, when I spotted a cluster of green vines that I had not seen for over a decade.  Instinctively I reached out for them with a satisfied sigh.  A shopper next to me looked curiously and asked the vendor what that stuff was.  "Pepper," he said, picking up handfuls and dropping them on the weighing scale.  The lady turned away as I made an unsuccessful attempt at bargaining.

Green pepper!  Fresh from the hills south of Bangalore - seaweedy-green, zingy and almost alive, still clinging to the tender vines upon which it had grown.  The man spun some story about how he was already giving me a reduced price but it didn't really matter.  For he knew as well as I did that I had succumbed to their fatal attraction.

Green peppercorns are young peppercorns, at the stage before they ripen and turn black.  They have a short life span are therefore not often sold in markets.  These peppercorns lack the depth and fiery heat of the black ones, instead they possess a unique zesty piquancy.  The best way to preserve their flavour is by gently pickling them - without any strong oils, spices or additional flavouring.  I like to place them in a sterilized dry jar, cover them in freshly made and cooled brine mixed with a generous dose of fresh lemon juice.  I arrived at this recipe through a mixture of searches on the internet and by experimenting a little.  The specifics are not too important - the brine should be medium-salty and the lemon juice is added to taste.  The important thing is that all the peppercorns should be completely immersed in this mixture.

The pickle is ready to eat anytime (though it tastes better after a few days) and is stored in the refrigerator.  It's a translucent green in colour, reminding  me of happy sea creatures.  It goes well with most things - Thai curries as well as biscuits and Stilton!  It's something I can't buy anywhere and each time I help myself to a little, I resolve to visit those old miscellanea shops more often.

1 comment:

Ms.Chitchat said...

Hi, was searching for kurumilagu recipe and found yours, it looks so fresh and green. Mine have started to turn black. Can you suggest as to what could be the reason for this? Thanks


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