Atchara (Filipino Pickled Green Papaya)
Atchara is sweet, tart (and sometimes spicy) all at once–the perfect accompaniment to grilled and/fried meats. This is my father’s recipe.
This blog is eleven years old today and in preparing for this post I had originally planned to share a recipe that embraces what’s become tradition for me to share for these anniversaries, a Filipino recipe, but this time with a sourdough component. Siopao are Filipino steamed buns and they seemed like the perfect thing to make for the occasion but after two attempts only the filling has been worth writing home about. Converting the traditionally commercial yeast leavened dough to sourdough has proven problematic so it’s back to the drawing board for now.
But after the initial disappointment of having my plans squashed, it dawned on me that I had something far better to share–a recipe from my father.
For as long as I can remember my dad has always enjoyed his pickling projects and where this pandemic has made a sourdough baker out of a lot of us, my dad has upped his pickling game. So it was a huge treat when on one of my visits recently the bag of homemade goodies I returned home with contained a jar of atchara. I had also been pestering my parents for their and my favorite childhood recipes so they can be stored here for posterity and it was a double bonus not to just have a fresh jar of atchara to enjoy but the written recipe, too.
What is Atchara (Atsara, Achara)?
Atchara is a pickled condiment made with green (unripe) papaya, carrots and red peppers. The sweet-tart pickling brine is enhanced with ginger, garlic, whole peppercorns and sometimes chilies. Variations include the optional addition of raisins which my dad uses in this recipe and sometimes pineapple chunks.
Atchara is traditionally served as an accompaniment for grilled or fried meats and fish, offering some zing to balance the richness of the protein it’s served with. On the sweet-tart scale, atchara has a mildly sweet personality but not so much as to dampen the punch of the vinegar. It’s truly the perfect balance of both.
I remember visits to my paternal grandparents’ home as a child. Homemade atchara was regarded as a treat because not everyone knew how to prepare it well. In my grandmother’s household the queen of atchara was her cook, Mme Pilar. In everyone’s opinion hers was the best and only her version was worth gracing the table.
It’s funny the random things that we remember. My grade school taste buds didn’t particularly appreciate it then but I’ve somehow stored this little tidbit about atchara . The grown up me, of course, loves it. And I’m here to say that this, my father’s version, would give Mme Pilar a run for her money.
Atchara (Filipino Pickled Green Papaya)
Atchara is sweet, tart (and sometimes spicy) all at once–the perfect accompaniment to grilled and/fried meats. This is my father's recipe.
- 3-4 pounds green papaya, peeled and shredded
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced in disks
- 1 large red bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
- 1 large yellow onioin, sliced in thin strips
- 1 inch knob ginger, peeled and julienned
- 2 1/2 snack-sized boxes of raisins (each box is .5 oz)
- 8 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 1 1/2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
- 3 cups distilled white vinegar
- 3 cups granulated sugar (See Note)
- 2 teaspoons pickling salt for pickling mixture
- 1/4 cup pickling salt (for preparing papaya)
In a medium sauce pan, add the distilled vinegar and bring to a boil and allow to boil for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and two teaspoons pickling salt until both are dissolved. Allow this mixture to cool to room temperature.
While the pickling brine cools, prepare the papaya. In a large bowl, toss the shredded papaya with 1/4 cup of pickling salt, cover and refrigerate for about two to three hours. After this time, transfer the papaya to a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water. (This step coaxes out the excess liquid in the papaya and the salt needs to be rinsed out.)
Using a cheesecloth or kitchen towel, squeeze out as much of the excess liquid from the papaya as you can. It's more effective to do this in batches so for this recipe you can divide the papaya in four batches. Place the papaya in a large bowl once finished with this step and fluff with a fork to allow for more even distribution with the rest of the ingredients.
To the drained papaya add the following: carrots, bell pepper, onion, ginger, garlic, raisins and peppercorns. Toss to combine.
Transfer the papaya mixture into mason jars and pour in the brine. The brine should cover the mixture entirely. Cover with a lid and refrigarate for a minimum of five days before using the atchara.
Ingredients: My father recommends using distilled white vinegar, pickling salt and granulated sugar for this recipe instead of other varieties for best results.