By LAURA GROSS-HIGGINS
They’re something like relish. They’re something like jam. Yet chutneys are a whole delicious species of their own, and you’d be pleasantly surprised to discover all the ingredients they can be made from—and the endless assortment of food they complement.
My journey to making chutneys started with my first steps in creating curries of all types, but it was recently reignited when our daughter, who is a vegan, expressed an interest in Indian food.
The Falmouth library also has a number of excellent cookbooks on that subject. And we had several books already by Madhur Jaffrey, who is one of my favorite cookbook writers for Indian food. The other part of the equation was the ability to buy the spices needed for some of the more traditional recipes.
Although I am not much for canning things, in the past few years I have ventured into the realm of making chutneys. My journey began long ago, with some jam-making classes at the Green Briar Jam Kitchen in East Sandwich. You might say they removed some of my fear of the process of putting up jam or jellies… or chutneys.
Then at a friend’s house about three years ago, we were treated to a green tomato mincemeat that I absolutely loved. Fortunately Sheila Carotenuto shared her recipe with me.
Next I tried making onion jam and liked that. Then I tried making a green tomato chutney and so on. Thus began my path to chutney-making.
So what is a chutney?
Made from fruits, vegetables, and/or herbs with sugar, and spices, chutney is a spicy and savory condiment that originated in India. In the US, most of these are sweet and/or sour. “Chutneys are used to provide balance to an array of dishes, or highlight a specific flavor profile. Broadly, the word chutney is now applied to anything preserved in sugar and vinegar, regardless of its texture, ingredients, or consistency,” is what one website (masterclass.com) said. Depending on the region, they can be called a chutney, a pickle, a brinjal, a relish, or many other terms. There are slight differences to them.
According to the site I mentioned before, in addition to making chutneys on the stove, you can make them in a slow cooker. I have only made them on the stove so far. But I am game to try using my Instapot. It’s something I may explore this winter.
When I was doing research online, I found many recipes for different types of chutney. Chutneys are ideal for doing something with all of the extra produce we have. They are perfect for sharing with friends and family. And most do not take more than a couple of hours to make. There are two types of chutneys that I know of personally. The one I have known about the longest is the cooked kind: commercial fruit chutneys, like Major Grey’s or even one of Patak’s relishes, like an eggplant brinjal. But there are also fresh chutneys made with mint and cilantro that don’t require cooking at all.
This time of year one chutney to make is cranberry chutney. It is ideal for serving with roast turkey or as as a complement to any kind of meat, cheese or poultry sandwich.
I would like to share four recipes, three of which I have made recently. Some of the ingredients are exotic, like Kashmiri red chili powder and the chaat masala. If you care to venture off-Cape, both New Bedford and Fall River have Indian grocery stores, where you can buy these ingredients. They are quite fun to explore.
Some of the recipes that are cooked don’t say to put them in sterilized jars. I recommend doing that. Wash your jars in warm soapy water; use clean lid domes. Fill a large stock pot with water to cover the empty jars and bring the water to a boil; boil for 10 minutes and leave the jars in the hot water until you fill them. Don’t sterilize the dome lids. Wash them, too. And put in the hot water at the end (not boiling).
Or you can also adjust the thermostat for the water in a dishwasher and sterilize the jars that way. Google that process online.
My first selection is from an Indian cookbook borrowed from the library.
Pineapple Date Chutney
Makes 1 cup
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
2 dried red chilis
1 tsp minced ginger root
1 1/2 c. finely chopped fresh pineapple
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder
1 c. warm water
1/2 c. granulated sugar
6 Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped
juice of 1/2 small lemon (if it is too sweet)
Heat oil in an 8-inch nonstick, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds and chilis. Let them pop. Add ginger and sauté for 30 seconds.
Once the ginger is fragrant, add the pineapple, salt, turmeric and Kashmiri red chili powder and cook, uncovered for 5 minutes on medium-low heat.
Add the water and sugar and stir well. Bring to a boil.
Cover saucepan, reduce heat to low, and cook for 30 minutes, until pineapple is soft and jammy. At the 15-minute mark, add the chopped dates, stir, recover, and cook for remaining *15 minutes. The chutney is done when the pineapple still retains its shape, but shouldn’t be al dente. Taste and add some lemon juice if it’s too sweet. (Add a TBSP at a time)
Once cooked, let it cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
You can sub raw green mangoes for the pineapple, only make the mango pieces long and thin. You can also sub raisins or sultanas for the dates or with the dates.
It is good with cream cheese on crackers.
*If you double the recipe, you may have to cook it down longer, until when the line made by a spoon drawn along the pot bottom stays clear for a second or two.
My second choice is from a 1984 Yankee magazine publication, “Giving Good Food,” by Deborah Navas that I tweaked a little. This is a little sweeter than the pineapple one and you can taste the onion. Put in less brown sugar if you want it tarter.
4 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 large onion chopped
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder
1⁄2 tsp cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup raisins
Combine all ingredients in a medium-to-large enamel or stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer an hour or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Stir frequently.
Put into hot sterilized jars and seal. Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool.
This one I made from allrecipes.com. I have changed it a little. It’s quick to make. Use it instead of the traditional cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving.
1 cup water
3/4 c. white sugar
one 12-ounce pkg fresh cranberries
1 c. apples, peeled, cored and diced)
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 tsp grd cinnamon
1/4 tsp grd ginger
14 tsp grd allspice
1/8 tsp grd cloves (optional for me)
In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Add the cranberries, apples, cider vinegar, and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Pour mixture into a bowl. Cool to room temperature and serve or cover and refrigerate.
Bring chutney to room temperature before serving.
This last recipe requires no cooking. It’s from www.veganricha.com/recipe-pages/mint-chutney-recipe.
2 to 3 green chilis (remove seeds to adjust heat, if needed)
1/2 c. packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 c. packed cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
2 tsp or more lemon juice
1/2 tsp apple cider or white vinegar or use more lemon juice
2 small cloves of garlic (optional)
1/2 inch piece of ginger root (optional)
1/4 c. water
1/4 tsp chaat masala (can get in an Indian grocery store)
Blend everything until smooth. Taste and adjust salt, spices and lemon. Refrigerate for up to five days. Can freeze in small airtight container for up to three months.
To make a thicker chutney, add a tablespoon of non-dairy yogurt, peanuts or coconut flakes to make a thicker chutney. (I did not do this and I did not add the garlic and ginger root.)
I served this last one with an Indian meal, or with vegetable appetizers.
So even if you don’t make these, consider adding chutneys to your meals. And if you do venture into making them, have fun.