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Don't buy chutney, make it yourself

fresh mangos
fresh mangos
Marc d'Entremont

I like chutney and have made many variations in my thirty plus years as a chef. Ordinarily thought of as a condiment for Indian curries, it's excellent on a nice hamburger, grilled chicken and shrimp or added as an ingredient to either a fresh or grilled cheese sandwich to name only a few pairings. The interplay of sweet fruit, astringent vinegar, fresh ginger, savory onions, spices, a bit of hot pepper and rich brown sugar is not only appealing but a great way to use fresh produce as it comes into season.

Mango chutney
Marc d'Entremont

Mangos are a favored fruit made famous by such British companies as Major Gray during the empire's rule over India. Yet a wide range of fruits and vegetables can be used either alone or in combination. Chutney is a simple form of pickling. Simple because it neither requires a lot of salt nor do you have to wait weeks to eat the product.

Chutney can be put up in canning jars if you have the time, a large quantity of fruit and vegetables and the storage space – follow USDA home canning procedures. But I prefer to make small batches – a couple of quarts. The advantage of my suggestion is the flexibility to utilize available fresh produce and have a varied supply. Refrigerated in sealed glass containers chutney will keep for several weeks.

A basic chutney

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds of fresh fruit – any single or combination of mangos, apples, plums, cranberries, peaches, tomatoes, apricots, blueberries, cherries, fresh figs or whatever firm fruit you favor. They should be just ripe enough to eat fresh but not soft or else you'll be making jam. You can experiment with vegetables as well.
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small hot chili with or without seeds depending on your preference for heat.
  • 2 to 3 cups diced sweet (Vidalia) or red onion
  • 4 ounces dark brown sugar ­– do not use white sugar
  • 1 cup of diced sweet peppers, any color or a combination
  • 8 ounces pure unsweetened fruit juice – experiment with different ones. Pineapple is good with mangos, apple goes with anything, cherry will work with blueberries and plums, orange pairs nicely with cranberries and apricots
  • 4 ounces of cider vinegar
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup pealed minced fresh ginger ­– do not substitute dry ground ginger in any amount
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons prepared curry powder or any combination of spices that make up your favorite curry powder recipe
  • 4 ounces raisins – other dried fruit can be used but dice to the size of raisins.
  • salt and white pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Peel the fruit if necessary. In the above list mangos, tomatoes and apples need peeling. See the photos on how to peel a mango.
  2. In a 4" deep saute pan heat the oil.
  3. Add the onions and hot pepper and sweat until soft over medium heat. Stir frequently and do not brown the onion.
  4. Add the sweet peppers and ginger and saute for a couple minutes.
  5. In a bowl combine the fruit juice, vinegar, sugar and curry powder.
  6. Add the fruit to the saute pan and gently combine with the onion pepper mixture using a wide wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Try not to break up the fruit too much.
  7. After one or two minutes, add the juice mixture and gently combine. Bring the mixture just to a simmer and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes gently stirring every 8 to 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and white pepper if desired.
  8. Transfer the chutney to a stainless steel or ceramic bowl and place that bowl into a larger container of ice cubes. Cool the chutney for at least 30 minutes gently stirring every ten minutes to release steam and evenly cool the mixture.
  9. When completely cooled divide the chutney into several glass jars or glass containers, cover tightly and refrigerate. The chutney can be eaten immediately but will keep for three to four weeks refrigerated.

This recipe makes 1 1/2 to 2 quarts but you can easily reduce the ingredients by half. The cost of making chutney is a fraction of store bought varieties, and I find the commercial brands too sweet as well. Besides, who gives gifts of food to friends that you've bought in a store?