Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What is Chutney?

I enjoyed some Chutney the other day...Apple Pear Chutney to be exact and now all I want is Chutney.  It's strange to me that unlike Ketchup, Chutney is the forgotten food accompaniment even though its been around for a long time (so has ketchup...did you know there are recipes dating back to the 1700's...crazy!).  I mean just think about all of the people that you know (possibly, including yourself) that can't live with out ketchup.  Ketchup on meats, eggs, potatoes, or any additional item on the laundry list of ketchup friendly foods.  On the other hand no one says, "OMG who used the last of the Chutney?! I can't eat my burger with out it!" 
So what is Chutney?
Aside from being a terribly fun word to say...

It's like a jammy relish.  Most are canned and include fruit, spices, hot pepper flakes to add a little flame, dried fruit, possibly nuts, garlic, onions, and vinegar.  I think it's very nice left on the chunky side.

Chutney actually used to be referred to as "Mangoed" since the most prevalent type of this condiment featured mangoes.  These days you have so many options: peach, apple, cranberry, tomatoes....and lets not forget the endless combinations: cranberry apple, cranberry orange, etc. 

Using Chutney
Since Chutney originated in India, it is a stellar pairing with curried items.  Great with meats...think roast pork, chicken, burger, on a sandwich or on lettuce wraps if you aren't a bread eater (like me). 

If you are going to a gathering it makes a nice snack item when befriended by cheese and crackers/a great loaf of bread.  My ultimate guilty pleasure is what I very plainly refer to as a "Brie Log"...you know the wheel of brie topped with jam (or in this case chutney) and then neatly swaddled (tis the season for that word!) in a crescent roll and baked.  One of my sorority sisters had this cheese pastry at her wedding and I'm quite positive I consumed 20 pounds of cheese.  Not a proud moment...but the Brie Log is in my top 10 super guilty pleasure cheat treats.

Sugar & Chutney
You have the natural sugar from the fresh fruit, the added sugar from the dried fruit (steer clear of candied fruit!) and then most recipes call for added sugar...things can get a little frightening!  Sugar doesn't effect the safety of the item, the pH does.  Sugar effects the set (thickness of chutney).  You should not play with the vinegar or fruit quantities in recipes but there's some wiggle room with the sugar.  Start with the dried fruit...look for brands with the lowest sugar and go from there.  You want to make something you can feel good about eating...and sugar laden condiments items are not it!
 Here is the Cranberry Chutney I made last night.  The recipe that I used called for 1 1/2 cups sugar + dried pineapple (it gave you the option to use candied pineapple) + golden raisins.  I added 1/2 cup of sugar and did a little taste tasting and Waaa-Laaa...no more sugar necessary.  I'll put up a recipe soon...I wasn't exactly sold on the recipe I tried so I'm going to do a little experimenting and present you with my own shortly.

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