In the same family as sweet jams and jellies, chutney distinguishes itself as a savory spread that is all at once sweet, sour, hot and spicy. This chunky spread, traditionally made as an accompaniment with Indian curries, makes use of extra fruits and vegetables. Top eggs with chutney for breakfast, spread it on a sandwich for lunch, or serve it as a complement to roasted meats and vegetables at dinner.
Chutney has its roots in Indian cookery, where it is served along practically any dish. In Western culture, chutney is consumed like other relishes either as a side dish, spread or topping. While comparable to jams and jellies, chutney is not necessarily gelatinous unless the ingredients used contain high levels of natural pectin. The fruits and vegetables might be chopped roughly to make a chunky chutney or chopped to a smoother consistency in a food processor. Consider the ingredients in the chutney when pairing them with food, particularly when serving chutney along with roasted meats. For example, a plum or apple chutney goes well with roast pork, cranberry chutney complements turkey or chicken, and mango and coconut flavors to complement spicy curry dishes.
Experiment with different flavor combinations while keeping common food pairings in mind. Chutneys commonly include vegetables such as red or green tomatoes, onions, zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant, artichoke, asparagus, cilantro and more. Fruit options include apples, pears, dates, figs, grapes, cranberries, oranges, cherries and mangoes. Mango, coconut, mint and cilantro are heavily favored in Indian chutnies. As with jams and jellies, you simmer chutney in sugar -- white or brown -- for a sweet flavor, while also including a number of savory spices. Typical chutney flavorings and spices include vinegar or lemon juice, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, mustard seed, cumin, curry powder, salt and black pepper.
Fresh Vs. Canned
When chutney is served fresh, lemon juice is often used for sour flavor, particularly in Indian chutney. Fresh chutney is commonly made with raw food made by simply blending fresh ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Cooking isn't necessary if you plan to consume the chutney immediately. For canning chutney, though, heat from the long simmering process is needed to kill microbes in the ingredients that could lead to spoilage. Vinegar is necessary in place of lemon juice in canned chutney because the acidity from the vinegar helps prevent bacteria from growing and spoiling the chutney. Roughly 1 to 1/2 cups of vinegar is needed for every 6 to 8 cups of fruit or vegetables to properly preserve the chutney.
Cooked chutney preparation requires a pan with a thick, wide bottom made with a non-reactive material such as stainless steel so the acidic ingredient doesn't react with the metal. All the ingredients are added to the pan, though opinions vary on whether you should add the spices and dissolve the sugar first, add the fruits and vegetables first and cook them until pulpy, or add all the ingredients at once. The resulting chutney is basically the same whichever option you choose. Bring the ingredients to a boil, then simmer, stirring regularly to prevent the sugar from burning. The chutney is done when most of the liquid is reduced and it is thick enough to remain divided when you drag a spoon across the bottom of the pan.
Transfer the finished chutney immediately to sterilized canning jars. Place a new canning lid on each jar and tighten a canning ring on the lid. Boil the jars in a hot water bath for 10 to 20 minutes or until the lids seal. A pressure cooker might be needed for a proper seal if the hot water bath isn't enough to draw down the lid. Store at room temperature for about one month before serving to allow the flavors to meld. Unopened chutney keeps for up to one year at room temperature; keep the opened chutney in the refrigerator for up to one month after opening.
- National Center for Home Food Preservation: Preservation Principles in Chutney
- National Center for Home Food Preservation: Preparing and Canning Chutneys: Apple Chutney
- BBC Good Food: Courgette & Tomato Chutney
- BBC Food Recipes: How to Make Chutney
- Penn State Extension: Canning Chutney
- Food & Wine: Peach Chutney
- National Center for Home Food Preservation: Preparing and Canning Chutneys: Cranberry Chutney
- Indian Khana: Spicy Garlic Chutney
A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.