Here are four varieties of homemade mango pickles:
Starting from the 3 o'clock position and moving clockwise (do youngsters today know what 3o'clock position is, and what clockwise is?)...
6o'clock: Menthiya Maangaai
9o'clock: Maangaa Thokku
(those are the phonetic spellings...all names are in Tamizh!)
Some varieties of mangoes are plucked when really tiny to make Maavadu (Vadu means "small one"...it is often used to refer to a young boy who is having his sacred thread ceremony, too.) The tiny mangoes are washed, dried and then soaked in salt,and ground chili powder and mustard...they slowly let out their juices and become prune-like in their shrivelled appearance.
Slightly larger mangoes, still very sour and hard to the touch, are used for menthiya maangai. Cut finely, they are mixed with salt, and chilli powder, roasted fenugreek seed powder, and asafoetida powder is put on top of them, and then hot oil in which mustard seeds have been popped is poured over the powder. Then it's mixed thoroughly. This pickle cannot keep for very long.
When the mangoes are a leeettle more ripe, they are grated and then Maangai Thokku is made. Mustard seeds are popped in oil, and then chilli powder, menthiyam and perungaayam(fenugreek and asafoetida) powder added, and then the mangoes and a little vellam (jaggery) (optional)...and the whole cooked. This pickle also needs refrigeration.
The larger mangoes, in fact, mangoes which are specifically grown for Aavakkai, are used for this pickle. The shopkeeper usually cuts the mangoes into chunks. A lot of preparation goes into the making of Aavakkai, which involves,again, salt, chilli powder, sometimes garlic...and (I am not joking) some traditional ladies in one area of Andhra Pradesh make this pickle in the buff, for fear of contamination and consequent going bad. Well made, this pickle can keep for several years, until the chilli powder loses its pungency, or the mangoes become less crisp.
Everyone this time pronounced my pickles to be perfect. Ah, the delight of having mango oorgai (pickles) with thayir shaatham (well-boiled, sticky-soft rice mixed with home-set, slightly-sour curds/yogurt) is indeed heaven...hameen ast, hameen ast, hameen ast.