Make Your Own Chutney
As I mentioned in the post cranberry apple chutney, I just love creating chutneys, and a recipe is not really necessary.
The sweet-savory ratio is important, however. I use about 2/3 fruit to 1/3 aromatics in my recipes when I start out. The fruit shrinks down during the cooking process, especially the fresh fruit, so then you’re left with a nice blend of both sweet and savory. You don’t want it all fruit, but you don’t want an onion chutney, either.
I then season the chutney according to my tastes and the time of year. There are fall and winter chutneys, and there are light, vibrant chutneys you can make for spring and summer appearances as well. It’s all a matter of the ingredients you choose.
Here are my guidelines:
You can use fresh fruit: apple, pear, mango, apricot, plum, strawberries, peach, etc.
And you can use dried fruit: cranberries, cherries, figs, apricots, raisins, apples, peaches, blueberries, etc.
A combination of fresh and dried makes a nice consistency, like pear-fig, peach-raisin, apple-apricot. Using three fruits works really well, like apple-mango-cherry. You get the idea.
I always use a combination of fresh onion, garlic, and ginger. Sometimes I throw in a shallot or two. You definitely need onion; the rest is up to you.
There is always a sweet component in chutney to balance the onion and vinegar. You can use brown sugar, white sugar, turbinado sugar and so forth. Liquid forms of sugar don’t work well in chutney, because they’re too, well, liquid. A prepared chutney is soft, but not a pile of syrup-y mush.
Except for salt, you don’t have to season a chutney at all, especially if you’re making a spring chutney, like an apple-strawberry chutney, where maybe a little black pepper is in order.
However, in the fall and winter, I like them full of flavor – especially when they’re going to be served alongside fairly bland meats. The choices are vast, depending what you want your chutney to taste like.
I, personally, love that aroma from a curry powder added to a fruit chutney. But separately, I love cumin, cardamom, white pepper, black pepper, and cayenne. A cinnamon stick adds a little cinnamon flavor while the chutney is cooking, but ground cinnamon can be used as well. And nutmeg, cloves, and allspice are always yummy. Think of them in an apple-pear-fig chutney served with a pork loin. YUM.
You can also add ground chile pepper, like ancho or even chipotle powders, to a chutney. And also adobo powder – especially if you’re making the chutney for a Southwestern-inspired meal.
Any vinegar will work in a chutney. I love cider vinegar and red wine vinegar for cooking. For a different kind of vinegar flavor, add a little balsamic vinegar after the chutney has completely cooked, just for flavor. But you’re going to have to contend with the dark color.
That’s it! Have fun making your own chutney!