Exploring the Heritage Behind Miami Canners’ Atchar
In your pantry packed with delicious Miami goodies, we’re sure there’s a jar or two of atchar lurking on the shelves. It’s a delectable way to pep up dishes, and the perfect addition to salads, sandwiches, and plenty more. But where did South Africa’s unique take on this beloved condiment come from? Let’s take a look!
Atchar vs Achar: Which is It?
In its South Asian homeland, you will see the deliciously tangy pickles we love called ‘achar’. The word is derived from the Hindi word ‘acharana’, which means ‘to preserve’. The perfect explanation of how this delicious condiment comes to life! Achar has a long and fascinating history stemming from the culinary heritage of countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
As we’re sure you know, South Africa has a massive Indian population- in fact, it is one of the largest outside the Indian subcontinent! When these immigrants first landed on South African shores, they soon wanted a little taste of home. And thus South African atchar, rich in unique variants you will find nowhere else, was born.
The History of Achar
Before the invention of reliable refrigeration and canning techniques, mankind had to find creative and safe ways to preserve the harvest to last them through months when nothing grew. The practice of pickling or preserving fruits, vegetables, and sometimes meats in a mixture of spices, oil, and acidic agents like vinegar or citrus juice has been a common culinary tradition in South Asia for centuries.
Achar is a loose catch-all term for these acidicly-preserved veggies in a delicious pickle blend. And there’s no single Achar recipe, either. Achar can be made from a range of ingredients, including mangoes, limes, chillies, carrots, and more. If it is a pickle that expertly balances sweet, sour, spicy, and savoury notes with crunchy veggies, then it is achar.
Today, Achar is a beloved and sought-after condiment that adds a burst of tangy, spicy, and aromatic flavours to dishes, whether they are traditional South Asian meals or creatively fused international cuisines.
South African Atchar: A Home-Grown Favourite
As the immigrant populations that brought achar with them assimilated into South Africa, achar evolved and adapted to local ingredients and tastes, the atchar we recognise today came to life. South African atchar features a mix of spices, vegetables, and sometimes fruits. You’ll see most local recipes using carrots, green beans, and mangoes, among many other variations.
Today, atchar is an integral part of South African food culture, enjoyed as a condiment, accompaniment, or ingredient in a dazzling variety of dishes. South African atchar reflects our unique multicultural heritage and the seamless blending of Indian, Malay, African, and European influences into local cuisines. It is also a touching testament to the fascinating way in which culinary traditions have been preserved, adapted, and shared across generations, enriching SA’s already vibrant food landscape. Miami Canners couldn’t be prouder than to share in such a deep and rich heritage!