Yesterday I posted on a Cranberry Compote, which is an alternative to a traditional cranberry sauce. It’s perfect for the holidays because, well, it’s made with cranberries! I love the combination of meat and poultry with compotes and sauces like these.
However, there’s another sauce of sorts that’s sweet and zingy at the same time, and that’s a chutney. It’s not just a sweet condiment – there are savory and spicy components to a chutney as well.
I love condiments so much, especially those seasonally-based. And, because I love to “play” in the kitchen and use whatever ingredients I have on hand or am in the mood to use, I wrote a post last year entitled “Make your own Chutney.” It’s a very easy primer, for lack of a better term, on literally creating a chutney of your dreams. Using what you have and love, and customizing it to your tastes.
At the time I had minimal readership. Although I did get 4 Likes! So I’m reposting that post. It’s for those of you who’ve always been intrigued by chutneys but have never attempted to make one. Or, feel that a recipe is necessary, when it truly is not.
Indulge. Chutneys are fabulous. They may not be for everyone, but for the more adventurous, they’re a condiment that hits and satisfies every culinary inclination.
Create Your Own Chutney
note: This primer isn’t only about holiday chutneys – it’s for making chutneys year-round!
I just love creating chutneys, and a recipe is not really necessary. It’s about combining fruits, the sweet factor, and aromatics, the savory factor, and then seasoning and flavorings.
However, the sweet-savory ratio is important. I (visually) 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 afterwards 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. (Unless you do, but that’s a different post!)
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. And, if you’re using tart cranberries, you would definitely need more sugar than if you were using, say, ripe peaches. 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. But you can also add a few drops of maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or boiled cider.
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.
And if you’re so inclined, you can always top off your chutney with a little tawny or ruby port, or even a little cognac or brandy. Just don’t add too much unless you cook the chutney for about a minute. That way you’ll get the flavor, but not the strong alcohol.
That’s it! Have fun making your own chutney!
note: I hopefully haven’t confused you. If you want to follow an exact recipe to get an idea of what a chutney tastes like, click on this link to Cranberry Apple Chutney!