What is chutney you ask? Chutney is a versatile condiment that can add an exotic touch to almost any dish you serve. The word Chutney is derived from the Hindu word, chatni, thought to mean crushed. It is made up of a variety of fruits and spices and was traditionally served with curry dishes in India. It is used in a way that is similar to salsa or relish. Originally, the fruits and spices were ground into a paste with a mortar and pestle. Historically, chutneys were cooked infused or cooked slowly in the hot Indian sun over a period of several days until they obtained the right flavor and consistency. Normally, they were eaten fresh without any preservation. This method is still used in modern India in homes that do not own stoves. Interestingly, many Indian cookbooks do not mention stoves as part of food preparation. Modern day chutneys are often preserved with vinegar and citrus and processed in a blender or food processor.
The history of chutney begins with Major Grey in the British Colonial Era. The basic story is that Major Grey, an Englishman in India, took the native chutney and developed a sweet, cooked, mango chutney that the world now calls Major Grey’s chutney or Major Grey chutney. When he left India, he took the new found condiment with him. As British soldiers and families journeyed to other outposts in South Africa and the Caribbean, it made its way into other cultures. Each culture used the fruit that was readily available to them and more and more varieties emerged. The British adapted chatni into a sweet preserve that today resembles what we call jam.
Ranging in flavor from sweet or sour, spicy or mild, or any combination of these. The range of ingredients is almost unlimited. They can be made from fruits or vegetables or a mixture of the two. They can be thin or chunky. The American versions that you see are typically on the sweet side. Since the ingredients are going to be chopped, cooked, and mixed with spices and often reduced to a smooth pulp, the quality of the fruits or vegetables is less significant with other dishes. Those often unappealing and misshaped fruit and vegetables are a perfect fit for chutneys. Those end of season fruits or vegetables and those misfit ingredients that may otherwise get overlooked come to life in a chutney.
Chutneys can liven up a variety of meats, poultry, fish, and appetizers. Chutneys made from figs, berries, apples, quince, plums, rhubarb, peach, or apricot are best enjoyed with cheesew, bread, or cold meats. A somewhat bland sandwich can be awakened into a new mouthwatering gourmet treat by the addition of a fruity or savory chutney. Imagine a Bartlett pear grilled cheese or a jalapeno grilled cheese adorned with a mango chutney for lunch or dinner.
Tart, zesty chutneys pair well with creamy cheeses such as brie. Making them perfect for appetizers. Apple
chutneys are ideal with ham and pork, and dark, plummy chutneys are perfect with strong cheddar, or rich meats
like duck. From dip to desserts, the
possibilities are endless.