Chutneys are one of those incredibly useful condiments that I would urge every home cook to start making. Endlessly useful and easily made in bulk and then canned or frozen, they are simple, satisfying and delicious. They are a fantastic way to preserve your spring, summer or autumn bounty. They are delicious on almost all Indian dishes, some Mexican dishes (depending on the chutney), many Middle Eastern and North African dishes, and the sweet ones do double duty as an elegant topping for brie or cream cheese. Once opened, they also last a very long time in the fridge.
My favorite chutneys, the ones I personally find the most use for, are sweet, tart and sour, much like Indian tamarind chutney, but thicker and chunkier. The blueprint rarely varies, comprised of vinegar, (usually brown or jaggery if you can find it) sugar, some salt, and veggies and/or fruit–often more fruit than veggies. Occasionally I add spices, as with this tomato chutney, but often a little ginger or garlic is sufficient. Some chutneys that have been featured on this blog in the past include:
Some dishes are created more “to taste” than others. For example, when braising a pot roast, I obviously do not taste it until it is completely cooked. Chutneys, however, are the opposite, as I let my nose and tongue guide me throughout the entire cooking process. I taste them constantly, looking for that perfect balance between the sour and the sweet. If, as is the case with this tomato chutney, I think it would benefit from spices, I add them until I can smell them slightly, but no more, as I want the chutney to remain flexible (I have found tomato chutneys and relishes in particular to be surprisingly tasty on Mexican dishes, so I do not want the chutney to taste like an actual Indian dish from the spices).
A chutney comprised in significant part from a sweet fruit obviously needs less sugar than one that is not. For example, very little sugar is added to the Date, Onion and Tart Apple Chutney, as the dates are almost tooth-achingly sweet on their own. The rhubarb chutney, on the other hand, needs plenty of sugar even with the apples and raisins to counterbalance the rhubarb. The rhubarb chutney also correspondingly needs less vinegar than the date chutney. Here are the basic blueprints for the Tomato Chutney and the Date, Onion and Tart Apple Chutney.
- 6 quarts of chopped tomatoes
- hefty pinch of salt
- 2/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
- 2/3 cup brown sugar or jaggery
- 1/2 t ground cumin
- 1 1/2 t Ceylon cinnamon
- 1/2 t allspice
- 2 T minced garlic
Start with a lot of freshly picked tomatoes. Chop them coarsely and add to a pot with their juices--I had about 6 quarts of chopped tomatoes because I plan to freeze this chutney. Add a hefty pinch of salt, and for that many tomatoes, about 2/3 cup of apple cider vinegar, 2/3 cup brown sugar or jaggery, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons of Ceylon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of allspice, and 2 tablespoons of minced garlic. Bring to a boil and let boil gently for 10 minutes. Taste for more vinegar and/or sugar. Boil another 10 minutes. Taste again, and this time taste for more spices (add them in 1/4 teaspoon increments). This time let the chutney simmer briskly (so slightly more gentle than the boil) for 30 minutes, uncovered. When the raw taste of the tomatoes has concentrated into a more cooked flavor, and the seasoning is to your taste, let the chutney cool before placing it in appropriate containers and freezing or chilling.
- 1 lb sliced dates
- 4 large onions, sliced
- 6 baking apples, like the super tart ones ready in mid-late summer, peeled, cored and chopped (Granny Apples are the best choice from the grocery store)
- ¼ cup minced fresh ginger
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- pinch of salt
Start by placing the dates into a large, heavy bottomed pot. Add the onions and apples. as well as the ginger and apple cider vinegar with a pinch of salt, and bring the entire mixture to a boil.
Let boil gently for 30 minutes, until the dates have broken down.
Taste for any additional sugar as well as more vinegar. Let it continue to gently boil until it reaches your desired texture--I like the dates fairly broken down so mine gently boiled for at least an hour. Let cool before transferring to containers to freeze or chill.