When we say atsara (chutney) here in Batangas, we are referring to a food made from green papaya. Commonly referred as pangpagana, a side dish that enhances your taste buds.
Some by the way spell it as achara, well according to some elderly citizens this is the Spanish way. It is one and the same and refers to a pickled green papaya with carrots, ginger, onions and red bell pepper.
Usually served in dining tables especially during fiestas. In my experience, the preserved or pickled dish is always dished up at any feast all over the province of Batangas.
Moreover, Filipinos loved it together with their favorite chicken and pork barbeque. Perfect with grilled and fried meats and fishes. It's a food every Filipino would crave for.
And speaking of Achara or Atsara, Calaca town in Batangas is best identified with the pickled dish. Small entrepreneurs engage in manufacturing the atsara, celebrate annually during the month of October the Calacatchara Festival. It's a thanksgiving celebration, which made the achara of Calaca and the town popular.
During the weeklong festival, a cook fest is held showcasing the atsara. Competitors show their ingenuity by using the atsara in their recipes. And it also a place where you can check and have a taste on which manufacturer has the best tasting achara.
According to one of the producer Manang Letty, making the sweetened green papaya pickles is easy but laborious. One has to peel the unripe papayas and discard the enormous seeds. Soon after, one has to finely shred the papayas and apply salt and toss and let it settle for at least an hour.
Now, one has to squeeze the finely shredded green papaya discarding the juice. Oh no, the laborious procedure in making achara. Need an exercise? I did not try it, but just thinking of it … tells you why.
This procedure should not be left for granted. Or else, if it not properly squeezed, the end product will not show good results. The atsara will become watery as Manang Letty warned.
At this time, be ready to prepare the pickling solution. In a pan, heat vinegar over low heat. Add sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic, and sliced ginger. Let solution cool.
Finally, place in a jar the squeezed papaya, carrots, red pepper, onions and raisins. Then add the pickling solution. Presto it's done.
Meanwhile, Manang Letty stress that other ingredients like ubod (soft pith of a coconut trunk), labong (bamboo shoots) and ampalaya (bitter melon) are popularly being made into atsara. And had a chance to taste all the varieties. Likewise suggest that you go and try all of them. They are all appetizing.
If by chance you are near the vicinity of the town of Calaca. I do suggest dropping by their town and get some fresh atsara.