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What is an Achar ?

Achar is a Hindi word meaning pickle. Pickled vegetables and fruits are a vital part of the cuisine of many nations, since they extend the shelf life of many products. In India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, achar is prepared with an assortment of spices, vegetables and fruits. Oil is used as preservatives and a pickling medium instead of water, as is the case in other cuisines. Achar is readily available in most markets, but it can also be made at home.

Some regions make unusual styles of achar. Depending on the region and the purpose, achar can be spicy or sweet. It is designed to be eaten along with breads, curries, and other dishes, to add a new height of flavor. Almost anything can be pickled, ranging from carrots to mangoes. Common ingredients in achar include lemon, ginger, lime, onion, garlic, green onion, cauliflower, and hearts of palm. Often, a mixed pickle with several fruits and vegetables ingredients is made.

In making Pakistani style achar, the cook begins by slicing the main components very finely and rubs it in turmeric and salt that both act as preservatives. The cook grinds mustard, fenugreek, and fennel together, along with chili powder. Heated sesame oil is mixed with these spices, and the paste is rubbed onto the vegetables and fruits in the achar. The mixture is stored into an earthenware jar, and the oil remaining is poured on top. The achar is stirred thoroughly to distribute the oil and take out air pockets, and the jar is covered with cloth.

Achar should be stirred occasionally, and if someone wants to have some, they stir before they dip from the top of the jar. The pickle has a very long shelf life, especially in a cool dry place. Achar produced commercially are sometimes mixed with preservative compounds to make sure that it will be safe to eat, but the acid in homemade achar keeps most bacterial growth at bay.

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