Achar is the standard Indian term for a pickle, a popular condiment all over India. Achar, also known as Indian pickles, have been a part of the culture and history for 4,000 years. Pickles in the north of India are typically made with mustard oil, while the South Indian style is made with sesame oil.
Achar or pickled meat, fruits and vegetables are an important part of many cultures and cuisines globally since they extend the shelf life of produce. Indians have dozens of pickles at their disposal: assorted or mixed pickles, meat, lime, chilli, gooseberry, mango & more in both savoury and sweet tastes.
In India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, achar is made with a variety of meats, fruits, vegetables, and spices. Usually, a vegetable oil (mustard or sesame) is used as a pickling medium and preservative, rather than water or vinegar, as in some other cuisines.
Fermentation is one method of making achar, but not all achar are fermented.
When vegetables and fruits are fermented, healthy bacteria break down the natural sugars. This process is what gives fermented pickles their sour taste. The pickles sit in salt water and ferment over many days.
Fermenting meat, vegetables & fruits is not only a method of food preservation. Fermented foods are said to have considerable health benefits. They are rich in probiotic bacteria that support the intestinal flora.
As sugar and starches are broken down through fermentation the resulted food items are easier to digest. Fermentation can equally increase the availability of vitamins and minerals for absorption.
The consumption of probiotic-rich food is also supporting the gut lining as natural barrier, which makes the immune system more robust.
There are a multitude of fruit and vegetables that are pickled by the direct addition of acid rather than by fermentation.
When pickles aren’t fermented, vinegar gives them their tang. Vinegar itself is produced through a fermentation process, but only vinegars that remain raw and unpasteurised, such as raw apple cider vinegar, retain parts of the “mother culture,” which provides that good bacteria.