Chutney is a mixture of fruit and/or vegetables cut into small pieces and cooked with vinegar and sugar to make a spicy product with the consistency of jam. Fruit and vegetables may be bruised and imperfect, but never mouldy or rotten, and all bruises and poor parts should be cut away. The fruit and vegetables are best cut in small pieces, but some people prefer them minced. Dried fruit, onions, garlic and brown sugar all give added flavour and richness to chutney.
Spices are particularly important in chutney and may be varied according to family tastes. Cayenne and chillies are very hot and may be omitted from recipes, but ginger which also gives ‘hotness’ is always acceptable in chutney. Cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and mace are aromatic spices and particularly good for mild fruit chutneys. Use freshly ground spices and measure them accurately for the first batch of chutney, but vary quantities if liked after testing the finished product when it is cold.
Most chutneys are made by simmering together fruit and vegetables in some vinegar with spices to soften the ingredients, break down fibres and bring out flavours before adding sugar and then cooking is continued slowly until the mixture is of a thick jam-like consistency. Chutney will thicken slightly when cool but should never be bottled while pale and liquid. Stir chutney carefully, and never leave it for long periods to cook unwatched, as it will spoil if burned.
Put chutney into hot clean jars with vinegar-proof lids, and never cover with paper as the mixture will dry out. Fill jars to the brim, and wipe them well before storing in a cool, dry, dark place. If chutney becomes dry and brown on top, it has been kept without an airtight cover, or the storage place has been too warm. Chutney should be thrown away if it ferments or becomes mouldy, which can result from undercooking so that there is too much water in the mixture, or from unclean jars or covers.
© 1978 Mary Norwak estate. All rights reserved.