From the Ground Up: Fall fruit chutneys
by Ann M. Evans & Georgeanne Brennan
Making homemade chutney, like other lost kitchen arts is experiencing a revival. Chutneys are essentially fruit pickles, that often include vegetables and spices as well, and they are used as a condiment.
A staple in India, there chutneys are typically cooked long and slow. The fruit cooks down to a dark, dense, mass. In English and American cooking, chutneys are more likely to be similar to classic pickled vegetables, and the fruit is cooked just enough to tenderize it.
In either instance, chutneys are either sweet or hot and spicy. Of course, as with all traditional foods, lines are crossed, and many variations are not only possible, but acceptable, which we think is a good thing, since it allows for lots of creativity.
Right now, in early September through the middle of October, there is a huge bounty of both late summer and early fall fruits and vegetables, making it a perfect time to experiment with making your own chutney. Since, for maximum flavor, chutneys should age for a least a month after being canned, putting some up now insures they’ll be ready to serve for the holidays.
At the table, chutneys play a variety of roles.
They are an essential part of the Dutch Reistaffle, a multi-course meal of small dishes that is a blend of Indonesian and Dutch foods and spices. The dish became integrated into Dutch cooking when Holland had a stout East India trade and colonies and Reistaffle restaurants flourish in Amsterdam. In India and Pakistan, chutney off all kinds are found on the table, part of the array that accompanies main dishes such as curries, whether fish, meat, or vegetarian.
In Hindi, the word chutney is literally the word for taste. Many tastes are found on the tables of the subcontinent, and these tastes, or chutneys, have found their way to the tables of Europe and North America. The contemporary use of chutney in the United States is to accompany cheeses. Think Fig Chutney with a cheddar or Quince Chutney with an aged goat cheese or Gouda, or Pluot Apple Chutney with Gruyere, for example.
Another current use of chutney is as a sandwich spread, like a mayonnaise. Think roast pork loin on grilled Ciabatta bread spread with summer fruit chutney, or hamburger with green chilies and tomato chutney. The possibilities are endless.
In seeking your fruit, investigate the Farmers Markets in Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento as well as fruit stands such as Manas Ranch on County Road 21 A in Esparto, or Double R Ranch on the frontage road off 505 and The Fruit Tree on Highway 128, both in Winters. Canning jars and canning equipment are available at local hardware stores.
We encourage you to experiment.
Fall Fruit Chutney
This savory, spicy chutney can be kept in the refrigerator or canned for preservation in your glass pantry and use throughout the year. For milder chutney, add another pound of fruit. Later in the fall, green tomatoes, quince, cranberries and even winter squashes can be made into chutney.
2 pounds stone fruit such as plums, nectarines, Pluots, chopped coarsely
1 pound apples, chopped coarsely
½ pound yellow onion, chopped coarsely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced, about 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ green jalapeño pepper, seeded, chopped finely
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy metal pan such as a Dutch oven. Bring mixture to a boil. Turn heat to low and cook mixture until all ingredients are soft and blended, about 3 hours. Mix frequently toward the end to prevent burning.
Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon stick.
To can, place lids with rubber seal into a small sauce pan with about 1 cup of boiling water in it. Soften the lids for about 2 minutes, and turn off heat. Ladle the hot mixture into sterilized pint jars, filling up to ½ – ¼ inch below the top. With a clean cloth, wipe the rim of the jar so that it is clean. Place lid on the rim of the jar. Screw on the ring, fairly tight. Place in a water-bath canner with water covering the jars by about 1-2 inches. Bring water to a boil. Process in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes.
Remove jars from water. Let cool. You should hear a popping sound as this occurs. Prior to putting away the chutney, check each seal by pressing down on the lid. It should not give. Label with name of product and date made. Makes 2-3 pints.
Ann M. Evans and Georgeanne Brennan have a food and marketing consulting firm, Evans & Brennan, LLC, specializing in farm fresh food in school lunch. They co-lead Slow Food Yolo. Reach them at email@example.com.