By Elise Bauer
According to Wikipedia, chutney is an Anglo-Indian word derived from Hindi and Urdu, and describes a wide class of spicy sauces and condiments to serve with a main dish. Chutneys vary by regional specialty and can include coconut, tamarind, tomatoes, or even prunes.
To many of us Westerners, however, chutney means just one thing: a jar of Major Grey’s, a sweet and tangy mango condiment to serve with rice, chicken, or pork. I love roast chicken served with mango chutney and could easily go through a jar of it a month on my own. So when I started experimenting with making my own chutneys a few years ago, it’s as if I hit a condiment gold mine.
The basics of a typical (Western) chutney are simple. Chutneys are essentially sweet and sour chunky relishes. You need fruit, onions, sugar, acid (vinegar or lemon juice), and spices. Because of the high acid and sugar content, you can easily can jars of chutney without worry; they make great gifts.
Here’s a basic guideline for fruit chutneys. I like to make mango chutney, apple chutney, and quince chutney. You could easily extend this approach to other fruits like pineapple or pear. The spices you choose depend on your preference, and what works best with which fruit. For example, mustard seeds and red chili flakes work well with mango. Allspice and cinnamon would work well with apple. Nutmeg and cardamom would complement pear. You can experiment with tasting as you make your chutney to see what spice combination works best with what you’re making.
4 cups chopped fruit like mango, apple, quince, pear, pineapple
1 to 1½ cups sugar
½ cup vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp chopped candied ginger or fresh ginger
½ cup raisins, currants, or dried cranberries
½ tsp to 1 tsp of some spice combination whole mustard seeds, red chili pepper flakes, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg
Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir to mix. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, until all of the ingredients are well cooked through and the flavors are blended. Early in the cooking, taste and adjust for balance. Add a little more sugar if the mixture is too tart, a little more vinegar or lemon juice if the mixture is too sweet.
Once cooked, you can let it cool and refrigerate it for several weeks.
Or you can preserve the chutney by pouring the mixture into sterilized canning jars and processing with a water bath. To sterilize canning jars, rinse out your Mason jars, and place them right-side up on a tray in a 225°F oven for 10 minutes. Sterilize the lids by placing them in a wide bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Scoop the finished (still hot) chutney into the jars, wipe the rims clean with a wet paper towel, place a canning lid on the jars, and secure (not too tightly) with a jar ring. Put a steaming rack at the bottom of a very large stock pot, fill 2/3 with hot water, and bring to a boil. Use tongs or jar lifters to place the filled jars of chutney into the water bath so they stand on the steaming rack. The water should cover the jars by 1″. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Then remove the jars from the water and let cool. You should hear the jar lids making a popping sound as a vacuum is created as the jars cool. Store in a cool dark place for up to a year.
About the Author:
Elise Bauer is a former Silicon Valley executive, now home cook and publisher of SimplyRecipes.com, a family-oriented food blog of American home cooking.
(Photo of Elise by Ree Drummond of thepioneerwoman.com)