My Grandma’s supper table was always loaded with appetite sparking little extras–three types of homemade cucumber pickles (sweet, tart, and sweet-tart), spiced peaches, sauerkraut, candied crab apples, and pickled baby onions. Thus, I grew up happily on the sharp aroma and kick of vinegar.
But even though some of her specialties included spices, such as cinnamon and cloves, they never included garlic or hot chiles.
I would have to wait until college to taste my first Indian chutney, a sweet-tart-spicy-hot-chunky-fruity, completely addictive condiment. After that first mind altering bite, there was no turning back. Today, our frig always contains at least one homemade and several store-bought chutneys.
So what is chutney anyway? It’s basically a reduced, slightly syrupy mixture of fruit (or vegetables), sugar, vinegar, chiles, garlic, and spices. Sometimes it’s preserved by canning, but because of the high vinegar percentage, it keeps for an extended period in the frig as well.
Although chutney is perfect as an accompaniment to spicy Indian curry, its usefulness extends far beyond that traditional pairing. Depending on which fruits and spices are used, I love it with ham, duck, game hen, chicken, turkey, fish, beef, prawns, cream cheese, goat cheese, Greek-style yogurt, artisan crackers, savory fritters, satays, grilled anything, and sandwiches.
It’s even delicious on its own, straight out of the jar, which is how I’m eating it right now. I did mention the addictive part, right?
Spicy Blueberry Ginger Chutney
This deep violet chutney is sweet, tart, spicy hot, and packed with flavor. I especially love it with artisan crackers topped with local cream cheese or farmers cheese. Or as an accompaniment to a savory chèvre or gorgonzola cheesecake.
1 cup best-quality red wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
½ stick Mexican cinnamon
6 allspice berries
3 pieces star anise
½ cup skinned, finely minced garlic (about 1 large head)
½ cup peeled, finely minced fresh ginger
½ cup stemmed, seeded, finely minced jalapeno chiles (wear disposable gloves)
½ teaspoon salt
- In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar and sugar, and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.
- Tie the cinnamon, allspice, and star anise loosely in a small piece of cheesecloth. Add to the saucepan and macerate for at least ½ hour. (If you don’t have cheesecloth, just throw in the spices, and then fish them out later.)
- Reheat the chutney, and add garlic, ginger, chiles, and 1 cup blueberries. Bring to a simmer.
- Simmer slowly, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens and reduces by half, about 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the spices.
- Add the remaining 3 cups of blueberries and 1-2 tablespoons water if needed.
- Simmer until most of the blueberries have softened and the sauce is somewhat thickened, about 5 minutes. Don’t go too far here though. The chutney will thicken more as it cools, and you do want some of the blueberries to retain their shape.
- Remove from the heat, stir in the raisins if using, and then add crushed red pepper and salt to taste.
- Let cool, put into a plastic container, cover, and refrigerate until cold.
Makes 3 cups.