Chutneys are little relishes you make to compliment the rest of the meal. You might think of them as a little salads without lettuce.
In the Indian culture they prepare mostly bland dishes, yet have more than 3,000 spices to work with! This is due to the country’s dense populations and scarcity of foods. This challenges chutney imagination and opens the way for elaborate chutneys made hot, sour, sweet and spicy using a variety of vegetables and fruits. Chutneys in India are made fresh each day.
“Each preparation brings to palates intense, loud, pungent, competing flavors, a pleasing rush … a treat to the mouth. You taste sweet, then hot, then salt, then sour in a fraction of a second,” states Chris Schlesinger, et al, in the book Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys and Chowchows. More latitude comes from the balance achieved between sweet to sour, spicy to salty – fresh or cooked, mild to strong, thin or chunky. These chutneys retain their strong fruit or vegetable flavor which is usually enhanced with sugar, honey or molasses, balanced with vinegar or lime juice. Chutneys are not always spicy-hot.
- Take advantage of seasonal fruits or vegetables and make a large batch.
- Virtually oil free, chutney becomes a multi-faceted ingredient in casseroles, bean dishes, meat toppings
- Serve chutney as an accompaniment to meat, game, fish or vegetarian dishes.
- Serve on sandwiches, in salads.
CHOOSE ABOUT THREE ITEMS BELOW:
CHOOSE FROM THESE FOR TARTNESS
Vinegars (many varieties to choose from)
CHOOSE FROM THESE SPICES
CHOOSE FOR HEAT
Dried red chilies
Peppercorns Ginger root
CHOOSE FOR SWEETNESS
Sugar, brown or white
GUIDELINES FOR BUILDING CHUTNEYS:
There is no such thing as a perfect chutney; most are unique. Mix and experiment using the following categories. Make future batches based on your family’s adaptations.
- Saute 2 onions briefly, add garlic to taste. Remove from heat while onions are still crisp. Put to one side.
- Combine approximately 4 to 6 cups of coarsely chopped fruit(s)/Vegetable(s) in saucepan. Choose no more than three.
- Add fruit juice to keep chopped items from being dry.
- Simmer gently until slightly tender, yet crisp.
- Add sautéed onion mixture. Stir well.
- Add vinegar. Start with 1/3 cup
- Add sweetener to taste, start with 1/4 cup
- Add spices, no more than three to start, also salt and pepper
- Add heat agent. Start with 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper.
- Cool mixture and re-taste for sweetness, tartness, heat and spiciness. Store for short period in sterile jars. Do not return leftover chutney to its original jar.