I’m going to open this post with a statement:
“There is nothing that can transform a platter of cold meats and/or cheeses more easily than chutney.”
Me, just now.
Bold? Possibly, but with justification. Every chutney, from the lowest of the low-shelf, supermarket budget jars to the very best of hand-crafted and home-made pots contains a tantalising mix of sweet, salty, sour and spice.
Originating in India, the word was initially translated as ‘salad’ but was later refined into:
“CHUTNEE, a condiment, compounded of sweets and acids. Strips of ripe fruit, raisins, spices, sour herbs, cayenne, lemon juice, &c, are the ordinary ingredients pounded and boiled together, and then bottled for use. Chutnee is much eaten in India with curries, stews, &c.”¹
Modern recipes are bulky, favouring a consistency closer to marmalade, but early anglicised recipes are much more of a sauce. These three recipes date from the nineteenth century and November is a perfect time to make them, in order to spice up your Christmas table or to give as gifts that can be enjoyed immediately upon unwrapping.
The three recipes I have selected are:
- Sweet Chutney (top): Similar in flavour and texture to a modern Brown Sauce, but with much more of a spicy, tangy kick. It is the only one of the three that recommends waiting before enjoying, a grand total of 2 weeks.
- Mrs Benfield’s Bengal Chutney (front left): unusually pale and interesting, this chutney uses sour fruit, gooseberries if you have them in the freezer (I did) or sour apples instead. It’s sharp and tangy with just a hint of mustardy fire.
- Mr Crawford’s Chetna (front right): my personal favourite. It wakes up your tastebuds with salty, sour, spiciness but doesn’t blow your head off with fire. Goes great with everything. I’ve even used it as a salad dressing. A taste sensation.
I love all three of these recipes because not only do they offer a delicious taste of times past, they’re eminently practical in that they neither take forever to make nor do they result in vast quantities. Perfect for individual use with 1 or 2 spares in the cupboard to spare, or plenty for half a dozen gift jars.
225g tamarind pulp
225g fresh ginger
115g fresh chillies without seeds
4tbs dark muscovado sugar
- Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until finely chopped.
- Transfer all to a blender and add sufficient malt vinegar to make a pourable sauce.
- Rub through a fine sieve – or not, your choice.
- Pour into sterilised glass bottles and seal.
- The sauce will be ready in a fortnight.
Mrs Benfield’s Bengal Chutney
600g green gooseberries or 800g Bramley apples
300ml malt vinegar
115g soft brown sugar
30g fresh ginger
7g cayenne pepper
50g mustard seed – washed and dried
50g raisins – chopped fine
- If using apples, peel and remove the cores. Chop.
- Add the fruit to a pan with the vinegar and simmer until soft. Set aside to cool.
- Put the cold fruit pulp and vinegar into a blender with the sugar, salt, garlic, onions, ginger, pepper and raisins and puree smooth.
- Stir through the mustard seeds and bottle in sterilised jars or bottles.
Mr Crawford’s Chetna
170g green gooseberries or sour apple (peeled, cored and chopped)
115g dark muscovado sugar
30g fresh ginger
30g fresh garlic – peeled & left whole²
56g cayenne pepper OR 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
- Put all of the ingredients except the garlic into a food processor and chop finely.
- Add sufficient malt vinegar to make a pourable sauce.
- Add the garlic cloves and pot in sterilised glass jars.
¹ The oriental interpreter and treasury of East India knowledge, 1848, Stocqueler, J. H. (1800-1885), C.Cox, London, p63.
² When I first made this, the garlic I had was quite large, so I sliced each clove in half. This made the garlic flavour stronger than if the cloves had been left whole, but not overpoweringly so. I decided to keep this modification for my own use, but the recipe above is the original.