A pretty pickle!

Want to know how to pickle green walnuts from Kashmir? Or preserve elephant apples from Assam? Turn to Usha's Pickle Digest.

This book, published 21 years ago, is still a go-to work for anyone who wants to try their hand at pickle-making. It contains a mind-boggling 1000 recipes, lovingly compiled from all over the country by Usha R. Prabakaran, a lawyer by training and a pickle enthusiast by choice.

The Chennai-based Usha loved pickles so much that she started making them herself – and found that they were so popular with her friends that often there wouldn't be any left for her own family! The more pickles she made, the more they were consumed!

Growing weary of catering to requests for pickles, Usha soon started writing out the recipes so that she could give them to family and friends. Thus began her pickle recipe collection. What was originally planned as a set of 25 recipes soon grew exponentially. She documented tried-and-tested family recipes and all-time favourites, including the gongura pickle from Andhra, as well as more obscure ones.

Usha also included a section on pickling kitchen scraps like plantain skins, cauliflower stems and bottle gourd peels, putting to good use what otherwise would have been consigned to the trash can.

It wasn't just the recipes for pickles that interested Usha. She also researched and wrote about the health benefits of some of them. Another aim was to remove the misconception that pickling is a labour-intensive and tedious process. "The art of pickle-making remains an enigma to most. The purpose is to give a proper understanding of the work. Preparation of pickles is always simple and never requires any over-complicated procedure. Mostly, all the recipes can be prepared in the normal kitchen", says Usha, in her introduction to the book.

She gives detailed information on pickling techniques, liquid preservatives and storage instructions. A glossary of names of vegetables in nine Indian languages as well as their botanical names adds value to the book.

Usha's Pickle Digest is a must-have for all those who love a good pickle!


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