The first rule of cranberry chutney–any cranberry chutney–is that you should make a lot of it because its uses are many and varied and it will keep in your fridge for a good few weeks. It also freezes well. So the recipe below is quite large–but I served the chutney baked on top of brie and brie-like cheeses as a Thanksgiving Day appetizer, I served it with Thanksgiving dinner, and now we are eating it with our Indian food. This last suggestion is possible with nearly any cranberry recipe, not just mine. After all the combination of sweet and tart is exactly what makes tamarind chutney such a hit in Indian cuisine.
I made my chutney with an eye to Indian cuisine, knowing that I would use it afterwards this way, but also just preferring those Indian nuances, like the ginger and mustard seeds. Having said that, my father, who dislikes Indian food (what Indian food he has tried) but loves cranberries, liked this chutney just fine. So don’t be afraid that it is too “exotic” for your Thanksgiving turkey (as a matter of fact it is what kept me eating my turkey, since I am not a big fan of turkey).
Here’s our adults-only spread right before we sat down. Our numbers were such that the kids were relegated to a kid table–which makes me laugh because I still feel like I could be relegated to a kid table, and here I am hosting my own Thanksgiving!
The chutney worked unbelievably well in all of its guises–so much so on the Hyderabadi Pilaf of Rice and Split Peas that I will consider making more for other Indian dishes when we run out. Having said that, I am so sad I did not take any pictures of the brie because it may well have been the most delicious use of all. I used a double cream brie, a triple cream brie, and an Italian Taleggio (probably my favorite), and honestly if I had not been cooking I could have eaten the whole platter myself.
So remember that chutneys are not just for Thanksgiving, make a lot when you do make them, and if you have leftovers from Thanksgiving, think outside the box for other uses!
A few notes about the recipe: it is all to taste. I cannot emphasize this enough. I did not measure very well, and I tinkered, adding more of this or that toward the end (especially cider vinegar and sugar). Just trust your tongue and you will be fine. And remember that the flavors will mellow and meld over time, so this is a good dish to make a day or 2 ahead of time.
- 1-2 T vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 T dark brown or black mustard seeds
- 1 large onion chopped
- 8-10 cloves garlic mined
- 1/2 cup ginger minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar plus more to taste
- 3 12- oz bags of fresh cranberries
- 2 sweet crisp apples such as Gala or Fuji, peeled and chopped
- 1 tart green apple such as Granny Smith, peeled and chopped
- 2 ripe pears peeled and chopped
- 2 cups golden raisins
- 1 T lemon zest
- juice of 1 lemon plus more to taste
- chile pepper flakes to taste
- 1 cup dark brown sugar plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup orange juice plus more to taste
Heat a large heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the oil and the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds have finished popping, add the onions with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until brown, about 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger with another pinch of salt and cook for another 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits, with the cider vinegar.
Let the cider vinegar cook down a bit and then add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and the reduce to a simmer. Let cook for 45 minutes, until all cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then, and this is crucial, begin tasting for additional ingredients. At this point--preferably a day or 2 before serving, the chutney will be particularly sharp, so you should expect that. Having said that, you do want a nice balance of sweet with the tart and bitter. I added more cider vinegar and more sugar to mine.