The term chutney comes from the East-Indian word 'chatni', meaning 'strongly spiced,' and is described as a condiment, usually consisting of a mix of chopped fruits, vinegar, spices and sugar. Most chutneys are on the spicy-hot side, but it's easy to season it and adjust the level of hotness to your own taste.
The chutney is the most well-known condiment that originated in India. This concept spread worldwide and was adapted by different cultures to suit their tastes as in the case of most other foods. Chutneys were traditionally served with curried foods. The sweet and tart flavour combined with a touch of spice compliments strong-flavoured meats as well as beef, pork and chicken. A chutney perks up cheeses and sweeter versions make a fabulous spread for crackers and toast or bagels.
The difference between a chutney and a relish is simple though the confusion is understandable. Basically, chutneys have a chunky spreadable consistency much like a preserve, whereas relishes are hardly cooked, use less sugar (if any), and are more crunchy to the bite.
There are any number of ingredients that go into chutneys. Most chutneys have a fruit base, but many non-sweet vegetables can also be used. Once you get the basic concept down, you can experiment with different fruits and vegetables. Use firm-fleshed, under-ripe fruits such as green mangos, bananas, peaches, apples, nectarines and apricots. Rhubarb and firm or under-ripe tomatoes are also good. Soft fruits with delicate flavours such as raspberries, strawberries and others will yield more of a smooth jam and their flavour will be lost. Dried fruits work well in chutneys since they retain their texture, yet contribute a tart flavour offset by the sugar and spices.
The most common spices used to make chutneys include ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and cardamom. The popular fruits used include among others, raisin, mango, tamarind, citrus fruits, apricot and peach. Even though any herb can be used, the common herbs are coriander and mint. Most chutneys usually contain some onion and many also include garlic.
• Mix chutney with cream cheese, sour cream or cr'me fraiche for cracker spread or fruit dip.
• Mix chutney with a bit of olive oil and use it as a quick marinade or glaze for meats.
• Keep in mind that the sugar in the chutney will caramelise. Add the final glaze when the meat is nearly done to avoid charring and flare-ups on the grill.
• When using a chutney mixture as a marinade, be sure to boil it again and cool before using it as a glaze.
• Mix with homemade or packaged mayonnaise for accenting cold meats or poultry.
• Most chutneys will last for weeks in the refrigerator due to the acid/vinegar content.
• If you want to preserve them, be sure to use recommended instructions for canning in a water bath, usually 10 minutes in sterlised jars.
• Use non-reactive pots when making chutneys. The acid in the mixtures will react to iron, copper and brass, causing discoloration and pitting to the pot and imparting a metallic taste to the chutney.
• Wooden spoons or plastic utensils are recommended for the same reasons as non-reactive pots.
Apricot and orange chutney
• Ingredients: 400gms dried apricots; juice and zest of 1 orange; 1 level tsp coriander seeds; 225gms light brown sugar; 425ml cider vinegar; 1 medium onion, chopped finely; 50 gms sultanas; 2 level tbs, finely grated fresh ginger; 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped; 1 level tbs salt; 1/2 level tsp cayenne pepper
• Method: Chop the apricots into small chunks and place them in a sieve. Rinse them under cold water. Shake off the excess water and put them in a large saucepan.
Place the coriander seeds in your smallest saucepan and heat the pan while tossing the seeds around in it. When they begin to splutter, transfer them to a pestle and mortar and crush them lightly before sprinkling them over the apricots. Add all the remaining ingredients to the apricots, and heat gently, stirring all the time until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Then bring everything up to simmering point and simmer the chutney (covered) for 45 minutes to1 hour. The apricots and onion need to be quite tender, but it's important not to overcook the chutney or it will be too thick ' the right consistency is like chunky, rather than liquid jam. Remember, too, that it does thicken as it cools down.
kiwi fruit chutney
• Ingredients: 1 kg kiwi fruit; 2 bananas; 3 onions; zest of 1 lemon; juice of 3 lemons; 1 cup raisins; 1 cup brown sugar; 1 tsp ground ginger; 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper; 3 tbs crystallised ginger; 2 tsp salt; 1 cup white vinegar
• Method: Peel and slice the kiwi fruit, chop the onions and bananas. Mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan and boil gently for about 1 hour until soft and thick. Stir frequently, cool, spoon into sterilised jars and seal.