Spicy Kumquat pickle achar is a hot, sweet and sour condiment that can be eaten with everything from scrambled eggs to main courses.
My late father, may Allah have mercy on his soul and grant him the highest paradise, loved kumquats. Whenever he visited Citrusdal, a citrus farming community about 2 hours outside of Cape Town during winter, he brought back oranges, lemons, naartjies (mandarins) and kumquats.
Kumquats are the olive sized citrus fruits of a hardy evergreen shrub that have tart flesh and a sweet and slightly bitter edible peel when ripe. These fruits are excellent in pickle achars, marmalade or preserved in sugar syrup.
One day my dad brought back more kumquats than we knew what to do with, and my mum decided to make kumquat pickle achar before they went bad. Using the same recipe that her friend Soeriya used for dried fruit pickle achar, she made enough to stock a small store. We were happy because we had enough of the spicy, sweet and sour kumquat pickle achar to last until Summer, plus enough to give away to relatives as gifts.
Since that day nearly thirty years ago, whenever I see kumquats I immediately think of my parents and kumquat pickle achar. I was quite surprised to see kumquats in my local supermarket and was compelled to buy a few punnets to try and recreate my mum’s kumquat pickle achar, especially since I finally have Aunty Soerie’s recipe. PS: the recipe is from a book whose name I am unable to determine from the picture I received.
The original recipe used mangos but over the years Aunty Soerie and my mum used it for any fruits or vegetables they wanted to make pickle achar with. I made a few adjustments of my own and added turmeric and asfoetida.
Spicy Kumquat Pickle Achar
- 1.5 litre water lukewarm
- 15 ml bicarbonate of soda also called baking soda
Pickle achar mix
- 1.25 kg kumquats
- 25 ml salt, approximately 5 teaspoons
- 5 ml turmeric powder, approximately 1 teaspoon
- 60 ml chili powder, approximately 4 tablespoons
- 30 ml cumin seeds, approximately 2 tablespoons
- 15 ml coriander seeds, approximately 1 tablespoons, lightly crushed
- 45 ml fenugreek seeds, approximately 3 tablespoons, coarsely ground
- 500 ml sugar, approximately 2 cups
- 500 ml vinegar, approximately 2 cups
- 125 ml corn flour, approximately 1/2 cup
- 125 ml water
- 375 ml sunflower oil, approximately 1 1/2 cups
- 30 ml mustard seeds, approximately 2 tablespoons
- 8 green chili’s slit
- 10 cloves garlic half sliced, half grated
- 5 ml asfoetida powder, approximately 1 tsp
- 2 bunches curry leaves
Place the kumquats in a medium size non-reactive or plastic bowl and remove any fruits with mouldy spots or small lesions as this will cause the entire batch to decay.
Cover with 1.25 litres lukewarm water and add the bicarbonate soda and mix through until dissolved.
Leave the fruit to soak for 20 minutes then place in a strainer, rinse under running water and drain. This should remove any dirt, mould spores and other residues.
Allow the fruits to air dry or dry them lightly with kitchen paper before use.
How to prepare the kumquats
Remove the green stem and slice each kumquat lengthways from the middle to the bottom end, without cutting them in half.
Place all the cut kumquats in a large non-reactive stainless steel or glass bowl, then sprinkle over the salt, turmeric, chili powder, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fenugreek seeds.
Toss the fruits in the bowl to ensure the spices are distributed evenly and allow to sit while you prepare the other items.
Mix the corn flour and half cup water together in a cup ensuring there are no lumps.
In a large pot, bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil then add the corn flour and water slurry, whisking continuously to ensure it doesn't clump.
After 2-3 minutes when the vinegar mixture has thickened and the corn flour is cooked, add the kumquats and cook for a further 2 minutes on low heat to allow the spices and vinegar mix to infuse, then remove from the heat.
Tempering the spices
Heat a clean dry pot over medium-high heat with the oil and when it shimmers add the mustard seeds, chilis, garlic, asfoetida and curry leaves then reduce the heat to medium.
The mustard seeds will pop and the chilis, garlic and curry leaves may sputter so take care when tempering the spices.
This should take no more than 2-3 minutes and you must remove from the heat before the garlic turns brown or the spices burn.
Add the hot oil mixture to the kumquat and vinegar / corn flour mixture and mix through with a big spoon until it forms a thick emulsified coating.
Allow the kumquat pickle achar to cool before decanting into sterilized preserving jars.
Store at room temperature and up to 2 months before use. Refrigerate after use.
- The same recipe may be used for mango pickles.
- You may remove the pips when cutting the kumquats but this may destroy the fruit so I didn't bother.
- Ensure that the pot used for the vinegar mixture is large enough to add the tempered mixture to later.
- I used 1 cup white grape vinegar and 1 cup apple cider vinegar, although you may use only white vinegar. Do not use brown grape vinegar or all apple cider vinegar as it may make the end result a dark brown color.
- I substituted fenugreek seeds, turmeric and asfoetida for methi masala.
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