Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Mango a Day (soon).

The first mangoes are here in the shops in Queensland. I hope for a prolific local crop and therefore ridiculously cheap fruit as last year’s was not good, for reasons I do not remember – maybe the weather, or maybe the fruit bats won the annual battle.

I can give no better a description of the mango than that in the very Victorian English Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (c1870)

“Of all the tropical fruit, the mango is one of the most grateful to Europeans. In form it is like a short, thick cucumber. The skin of the fruit is thick, and the interior consists of a pulp, which melts in the mouth with cooling sweetness.”

I love that old use of the word grateful in the sense of something ‘pleasing to the mind or the senses’.

The first mention of the fruit (as manga) in a European language was in Italian in 1510 - which is much earlier than I thought it would be, considering that not too many Europeans had travelled to its native countries of India and Burma (Myanmar) so early in the sixteenth century.

The interesting thing is that a mango in early English cookbooks also refers to any pickle resembling a mango, and particularly the sort made with whole fruit stuffed with spices and pickled (see the link below to the Cowcumber Pickle). India clearly gave the world this idea, and I am grateful for it. To pickle usually means to preserve by salting or immersing in vinegar, but the word is used loosely for other preserving methods, such as the following one, taken from a grand Anglo-Indian cookery book.

Mangoe Pickle in Oil.
Divide the mangoes into four parts rather more than half way down, having the bottom whole ; scoop out the kernel; stuff the space in each mangoe as full as it will admit of, with mustard seed, cayenne pepper, sliced ginger, sliced garlic, and grated horseradish; bind each mangoe with thread; put them into a quantity of oil sufficient to immerse the whole. Manner of preparing the mustard seed, &c. &c. - For fifty mangoes use five seers of mustard seed ; husk it, steep it in water for twenty- four hours, removing the water twice or thrice during the time, dry it afterwards for two days, reduce it into coarse powder; mix with it the ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, and grated horseradish ; make the whole into a paste with vinegar; stuff the mangoes with it; reserve a fourth part of the mustard powder to mix with the oil into which the mangoes are to be immersed. The garlic, ginger, and horseradish are to be steeped in water, and allowed to dry for a day previous to being used.
Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book. By R. Riddell, 1860.

In case of a surplus of mangoes in your neighbourhood, please refer to the following recipes:

Queensland Christmas mincemeat

Mango Ice-Cream

Cowcumbers, to Pickle in the likeness of Mangoes (1705).

Bengal Recipe For Making Mango Chetney, from Mrs. Beeton (1861)

Quotation for the Day …

We owe much to the fruitful meditation of our sages, but a sane view of life is, after all, elaborated mainly in the kitchen. Joseph Conrad.


srhcb said...

I like the name "cowcumbers"!

The Old Foodie said...

I like the name too - and it is what Samuel Pepys called them, which adds value I reckon!