"Kusina" = Kitchen; "Manang" = older sister

A Filipina's unabashed chronicle of her adaptations in the American kitchen. Includes step-by-step photos on how to make pan de sal, ensaymada, pan de coco, siopao, hopia, pandelimon, pianono, atsara, crema de fruta,etc., and if you are lucky, you will find videos too!

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Atsarang Papaya (Pickled Green Papaya)

From atsarang papaya
Just a peek into what's coming next....
Ok, peeps...during this week I am in a marathon for orientation in another hospital where I am gonna work per diem. So, even though I have cooked and tried and eaten quite a lot in the past days, my posts will be slow...slower than my actual cooking and eating. haha!

Like I said before, my favorite pickled cucumbers, "bread and butter pickles," was to me reminiscent of atsarang papaya when I first had a taste of it from my mother-in-law. Since then, I have been making them yearly since fall of 2005 (I learned as I watched MIL in 2004). I have been giving them away to Filipina friends every Christmas or whenever we would gather together and I still had some to give away (I have to ensure my own supply of minimum 6 quarts per year).

I tried making atsarang papaya last year using the same method but trying a certain recipe I got online, but trying to stick to the proportions of sugar and vinegar, and the kinds of veggies included, so as not to deviate significantly from proven recipes that are effective in keeping the canned atsara safe even without refrigeration. However, in that first attempt, combining the salt from the first stage, and the salt in the recipe I followed made my atsara too salty that I ended up throwing them away (sayang!).

This year, I resolved to stick to the brine recipe I have for bread and butter pickles minus the turmeric, because I included slices of ginger with the papaya, along with the usual bell peppers, onions and carrots. I don't like the taste of garlic in atsara (I like it in dill pickles, though.) nor ampalaya (but I eat ampalaya prepared in other ways). Since I have had success in the shelf-life (and maintaining the quality and crunchiness) of BBP that can keep up to a year at least, I am most certain that with this recipe, and observing proper methods of clean (almost aseptic) techniques in preparation, I will end up with atsarang papaya that I can say "Proudly Pinoy." Can't wait to let my in-laws have a try at it. My kids loved it (we tried some that we strained off the excess brine).
I will post as soon as I have the time...Stay tuned!
In choosing green papayas, for those who have not done any pamamalengke in the past, choose ones that are very firm to the touch, so that when you poke gently and firmly with a finger, there are no dents formed at all. Most of the ones I got, they tend to be hidden underneath the mushy, obviously not fresh, green papayas (typical business practice of exposing the older ones to get rid of them first).

When peeling papaya, I made sure I removed a thick layer of the skin and scraped the inside lining (where seeds attached) good. I believe these are bitter, but I could be wrong!

Now, this process can be so tedious when you are doing them all manually. I asked my husband for a food processor when he could not think of what to give me for Christmas. After I received it, I was so excited to finally make another trip to the Asian stores to get some raw ingredients for such projects as this.

Please take note that the brine has NO WATER; only vinegar and sugar, two very powerful preservatives. If you want to dilute with water or use less sugar, I cannot vouch for the safety or shelf-life, and so I do not recommend that. Please understand that maintaining pH and minimizing contamination are the key to effective canning/food preservation, especially for recipes that you will not process in a water bath. I cannot overemphasize the importance of reading first about the basics of canning. I have several links on the right sidebar for your perusal before you embark into the wonderful world of canning.


knife/grater/food processor
chopping board (better if you have a mandolin or a slicer either in food processor or as attachment)
nonreactive stockpot (stainless steel)
Jars and closures
magnetic picker
wide stainless steel funnel (to make it easier to transfer into jars; I don't have any. I used spaghetti lifter and ladle instead.)
cheesecloth (for pressing out excess water)
bubbler (I dont' have any; I used the handle of spatula)

3 green papayas (each weighed about 3 pounds), grated
1 each of red and green bell peppers, cut in small squares
1 big onion, sliced round
1 big carrot, sliced round (you may want to grate it, but I like the flowery look)
about 2 tbsp of peeled and sliced ginger
1 cup canning salt

For brine:
12 cups cider vinegar (this gives you light yellowish tint of the product; more so if turmeric is used instead of ginger)
12 cups of sugar
1/4 cup of mustard seeds (optional; I love these in BBP so I thought I'd include them. If you don't like eating these round spices, them don't include).

Day 1: Preparation -
Prepare the veggies as described above. Place in a stainless steel stock pot. Sprinkle 1 cup of canning salt (I use Morton - the green box) on top. This process draws juice/liquid from the veggies as the salt turns into solution by process of simple diffusion so somehow, the veggies get less watery, resulting to more crunchy veggies despite being cooked and kept in brine). Cover with the (hopefully flat) lid, and let sit in the fridge. If you don't have space in the fridge, what I did was to put it in a bed of ice cubes inside a medium-sized cooler, then added more ice cubes on top of the lid and the sides. Let sit at least overnight. (If made during fall, you can leave this in the garage overnight instead of using ice and cooler).

Day 2: Canning -
As usual, before proceeding, prepare jars and closures according to instructions in Canning Basics.

Next morning, rinse with cold water and drain. (I did this twice and tasted some to make sure it is the right saltiness I like). Place in two layers of cheesecloth by batches, and wring out excess water as much as you can). Place in a big nonreactive stock pot (aluminum is NOT advisable; it reacts with vinegar. Use stainless steel.)

Prepare brine and boil for 5 minutes. I usually start boiling hot water in another shallower stock pot, then pouring hot tap water into the jars as well, to prime them for sterilizing in boiling water. This prevents jars from being shocked with extreme temp changes. [During the actual canning, I remove the hot water in the jars then transfer the jar into the boiling water for sterilization, rotating as needed, and take out just before filling with the hot pickles. Alternatively, you can use a sterilizer by steaming (much like how you do with feeding bottles). I don't let the jars get cold before filling, or the pickles to get cold/contaminated before covering.)]

Pour the brine into the veggies. Cook on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes then lower to maintain heat while you do canning. In one fluid motion for each of the jars, proceed as follows:

Stir, then ladle into the jars. Make sure you have enough brine. Leave 1/2-inch headspace. Take bubbles out by using the bubbler (this minimizes air trapping; read about the effects of air trapping here.)Wipe the rim with clean damp paper towel to make sure nothing is there to prevent proper seal. Lift a lid out of hot water (or I swipe quickly in boiling water) then cover and close tight. Wipe sides of jar to minimize stickiness. Place hot jars on towel laid on countertop (minimize jarring), one inch apart, in a draft-free place (sudden rush of cold air might cause hot jars to crack). Additionally, you may cover with towel to minimize exposure of the jars to cold air. Leave untouched for minimum 12 hours. Observe for popping in of lids. If lids did not pop in, that signifies that it was not sealed properly. Place in the fridge and consume within two weeks.

Pickles start tasting like pickles after the 3rd day.

UPDATE: 1/30/09
From sweet chili sauce
If you are going to try making this and end up with lots of lefotver pickle juice, DO NOT THROW IT AWAY. While I was looking at it, debating against dumping it in the sink or saving it in the fridge, my older son suggested, "Maybe we can make sweet chili sauce out of it." Like a light bulb, I knew what to do with it. Will post about it sometime in the future. Thanks, Patrick!


  1. yummmm miss ko atcharang papaya, sarap kumain ng fried fish pag meron nyan.. nangangasim tuloy ako hehehe..

  2. I can't wait! I've been wanting to make this - I just hope I can find green papaya around here.

  3. chubs, I actually like to pair it with roast chicken, parang style baliwag lechon manok.

    TN, I am in the process of posting it now...

  4. Hi Manang, sarap naman nitong atcharang papaya. One time gawa ako nito sa US. Isan beses lang eh kasi ang hirap maghanap ng hilaw na kapayas sa amin. Mostly ang tinda super hinog na. Minsan gawa nalang ako ng singkamas na pickled din. Masarap naman....chaka talong na salad...hmmmm ..ingat po kayo lagi...happy cooking! hugs, Lyn

  5. Hi Lyn,
    Oo nga. Every time I would see some green papaya sa hannaford, I would get one and discover it is green. Mukhang they never sell the really green one.

  6. TN,
    Gawa ka na for fiesta...baka me enough Pinoy friends ka to celebrate some sort of fiesta instead of July 4th.

  7. Can I come to your house and have some of those atsara? Oh how I miss those :-(

    Those looks so yummy.

  8. I wonder if you sell those jars of atchara. pwede bumili sa iyo? hehehe

  9. Hi Hazel,
    Sorry ha...for personal use only (baka nga bitin pa!) haha!

  10. Manang! hehehe I remember making atsara in high school (where my love for baking started) hehehe :) i had fun making shapes made from carrots and papaya...hahahaha

  11. Hello po! ano po yung proportion ng sugar & vinegar for the brine?

  12. Hi Anonymous,
    1:1 (I used 12 cups each as I listed under ingredients).

  13. Manang...I'm making atchara today. I started with the veggies but I only have 2 papayas. So what would be the proportion of the sugar & vinegar? I even lessened the salt kase nga 2 lang ung papayas. I will have to start the brine tomorrow kaya sana makuha mo ito ngayon...pretty please? Thank you!

  14. Hi Anonymous,

    It will really depend on how big your papayas are. If they are around 3 pounds each, the proportion of the sugar and vinegar should be 8 cups each. The important thing here is that you have enough brine to cover the atsara once you place them in the jars. Better to have more kesa kulangin. Kung sosobra naman, pwede mong gawing sweet chili sauce like what my son suggested to me (see my note below the post). Enjoy!

  15. Manang..will there be a total of 24 cups of vinegar in all for the brine? And there was no mention of the sugar as well. I think this will be good.

  16. HI Anonymous,
    No, what I meant was that you should have 8 cups vinegar and 8 cups sugar for the two papayas you have (if they are the same size I used) since in my recipe, I used 12 cups sugar and 12 cups vinegar for 3 papayas, although I had leftover brine that time.

  17. wow!!!!! ang sarap naman!!thank you po tlaga,,nkatlong po kyo ng mlki sa project ko!!!:)

  18. hi manang sarap nman ng atchara nyo,, pano po bang makagawa ng kakaiba pang atchara

  19. hi john,
    Kung gusto mo ng cucumber version nito, look at my bread and butter (aka pimento) pickles post.

    Meron namang hindi lasang atsara pero pickled din, cucumber na lasang burong mangga. Dill pickles tawag. Just look for them under the label pickles.

  20. I always enjoy reading your blog. Salamat po. Just to clarify the Brine procedure, nakalagay po eh 12 cups of cider vinegar and 12 cups of vinegar? Siguro dapat po 12 cups of sugar?

  21. Hi janice,
    Thanks for catching that typo error. Correction made :)

  22. i cook this way back in college and sell them, really taste goos

  23. hi manang i enjoy reading your recipe,i use to make atsara in San Pedro Laguna back in 1996,bat i have forgotten how to make it,its been a long time.but now i always see some green papaya here in maryland oriental store and trying to think how to make it.but thank to you... i remember now how i doit before :)

  24. hi,po manang ano po ba yung nilalagay para medyo tumamis tamis yung atsara???

  25. Hi Anonymous,
    Walang iba kundi sugar. My recipe calls for 12 cups sugar (as much as the vinegar). I have tried using only 10 and I like it even better.

  26. ilang months po yung shelflife nung atsara?

    1. Charlon, any homecanned goods are best consumed within one year. I have not had atsara last more than a few months kasi pinamimigay ko as gifts, so konti lang natitira for me, at madali maubos.

  27. hi manang, i love atsarang papaya, and i really wanted to make it myself. i think i'll try it this time. i'll follow your recipe.

    my mother has other way of making it. she's making "bilad" the grated papaya until the "dagta" turns dry. but i want to try your version coz its not hygenic to bilad the papaya here in manila, maybe in province it can be where there's no air pollutions.


    1. Hi Anonymous,
      Thank you for your comment. The pre-treatment with salt has the same effect of removing the dagta, at the same time confers antiseptic treatment. So indeed it is more sanitary.

  28. thanks manang really love atsara...and want to improve my recipe...try ko po yung sa inyo:) will try din po kasi to sell some para me other source of income:)

  29. how about atcharang,ampalaya/talong/kangkong with carrot? how to make it?

    1. Sorry I have not made those, but I would sprinkle the ampalaya with salt overnight then rinse and shake off excess water before adding the brine, then proceed as above. Not sure it would work good with talong or kangkong (I can't imagine talong/kangkong made into this kind of pickle).

  30. Hi manang! Can i use iodized salt instead of canning salt? And also, can i use datu puti vinegar? Thank you!

  31. How long is the shelf life of the finished product?

    1. Typically, pickles made this way are best consumed within one year. So even though they won't go bad and still okay to eat after a year (unopened), the papaya strips might not be that firm anymore (might become mushy). Once you open a jar, though, whether or not it was just made a few days or weeks ago, you should keep in the refrigerator and consume preferably within two weeks, although being pickles, they would have more fridge shelf life than other perishable items.


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