When I was a teenager, my mom and I would make atchara together. Atchara is a sweet-and-sour pickle made with green, unripe papayas and other vegetables. My mom would make florets out of a few carrots because they added beauty and color to the pickle. Eaten with grilled pork or fried fish, it’s considered a national dish of the Philippines. In America, I eat it with BBQ, grilled meat, and smoked fish.
Papayas contain papain, an enzyme that helps break down proteins. This is why I sometimes use green papaya as a meat tenderizer. (There is less papain in ripe papayas.) We traditionally serve atchara with meat dishes in the Philippines to aid in digestion. Papayas and jicama are rich in fiber, which pulls toxins out of the body. Vinegar can lower blood sugar and promotes good gut health.
8 cups coarsely grated green papaya (or cucumber if you can’t find green papaya)
1/4 cup coarse salt
8-10 cloves of garlic (from one head), peeled
1/4 cup julienned fresh ginger
1/2 cup pearl onions, peeled
1/2 cup red bell pepper strips
1/2 cup green bell pepper strips
1/2 cup carrot florets or strips
1/2 cup jicama strips
3 cups white balsamic vinegar (champagne or seasoned rice vinegars will also work)
2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup white sugar (for a sweet-and-sour pickle, double the sugar)
1. Place the papaya shreds in a colander and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.
2. Make the pickling solution by combining ingredients in a porcelain or glass pan (don’t use a metal pot) and simmering for 10 minutes or until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
3. Squeeze any remaining water out of the papaya shreds. Toss together with the remaining vegetables and place into wide-mouth pickling jars.
4. Pour the cooled pickling solution over the vegetables. If the solution is too warm, the vegetables will cook. Top off the jars with water if necessary so that the vegetables are completely covered. Close jars tightly and put in the refrigerator overnight to cure.