When one first hears the word “chutney” the first thing that comes to mind is a sweet and relish-like condiment that’s made with fruit and loaded with spices. In a way, this is correct. In India, where this condiment originated from, chutney can come in both sweet and savory versions. In fact, there is no one accepted taste or texture for chutney. While we’re used to just having one type of chutney when we have it, in India, multiple chutneys are served at the same time. Also, what we now know as chutney is more akin to British chutney as opposed to a traditional Indian chutney.
- The most common fruit that is used in chutney is the mango.
- The word chutney comes from a Hindi word which means “to lick” or “to eat with an appetite,” chutneys must have been really appetizing to earn a name like that.
- Some of the earliest recorded mentions of chutney came from over 2,500 years ago.
- One popular variant of chutney is the “Major Grey” chutney. The formula made by a British officer was then given to a food manufacturer to export to Britain in the 19th century and it has stuck ever since, becoming the most recognizable chutney blend in both the UK and India.
Chutney Buying Guide
Chutney was originally made as a way of preserving fruit so authentic and artisan chutneys shouldn’t have any preservatives added to them. The high acidity from the vinegar and the used fruits will more than often be enough to allow the chutney to survive at room temperature (as long as the proper canning techniques are used) for quite some time. That being said, some commercial chutney producers still use preservatives to extend the life of their products, so it’s a good idea to check the label for any preservatives.
As for the flavor of the chutney, it’s hard to recommend one as most commercial chutney flavor profiles have been adopted to appeal to as broad a market as possible, and more often than not this doesn’t take the “authentic” taste with it. If you’re in the mood for some really authentic chutney, you can check out your local farmers’ markets. Since chutney is starting to gain popularity as a general use condiment, many artisan jam and jelly producers will probably have some chutney for sale as well.
Chutney Production & Farming in Texas
Texas has a very vibrant Asian-Indian immigrant community. While some would think that Indian cuisine and Tex-Mex cuisines are worlds apart, they actually share a love for common herbs and spices. Both cuisines love the use of chiles, cumin, and cilantro, which are actually some of the main spices used for chutney. So it isn’t a surprise to learn that authentic artisan chutney which leans more towards the spicier sides are quite popular in the state. This is evidenced by the fact that there are many artisan jam and jelly producers in Texas that make and sell chutneys that are close, if not the same, with authentic Indian chutney.
While we mentioned earlier that the most popular fruit that is used in chutneys is mango, in Texas, where only certain varieties of mango grow, it has taken a backseat to a locally grown favorite, the cranberry. If you search online for Texas-style chutney, you would see cranberry chutney as the leading search result. If you think about it, cranberry chutney is a pretty natural progression of chutney in Texas because if you look at the recipes for cranberry sauce and cranberry chutney, they’re virtually the same except for the addition of Indian spices.
If you can’t imagine what chutney tastes like, you can visit your local farmers’ markets to try them. We’re sure that the sellers there will let you try them before you buy.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Since chutney is fairly acidic, the use of chemical preservatives on it is quite low. That being said, there are still some producers that use sodium benzoate (e211) as a preservative for their chutneys, so it’s better to err on the safe side and check the labels and not assume that chutneys don’t have any preservatives in them.
On top of sodium benzoate, some producers add synthetic citric acid and acetic acid to their chutneys instead of good quality vinegar to raise the acidity so that’s something to look out for as well.
Due to its acidic nature, chutney is packed in glass jars or bottles. Commercial chutney producers also use laminated bags and duplex board boxes for transportation by case.
Chutney is a very versatile condiment and can be used the way any relish is used. It can be used as toppings for any sandwich or added to salad dressings to add an Asian-Indian twist to any dish.
Chutney can be served alongside cheese and deli meats to give a nice twist to a cheeseboard.
Depending on the consistency of the chutney, it can also be used as a dip for egg rolls, samosas, or any other finger foods or snack.
Also, as an aside, you can substitute cranberry chutney for cranberry sauce at thanksgiving to give everyone a pleasant surprise.
Properly canned chutney can be stored in the pantry for up to a year without worrying too much about flavor changes or spoilage. Once opened, it can be stored in the fridge for a couple of months as long as the spoons used in scooping out the chutney are clean. (Yes, serving spoons are a big thing.)
Make Your Own Cranberry Chutney:
This promptuary chutney entry wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t share with you one of our favorite cranberry chutney recipes. It’s very simple to make and it uses all locally grown ingredients.
Fresh Cranberries, 4 cups
Dried Cranberries, 1 cup
White sugar, ½ cup
Brown Sugar, ¾ cup
Ground Cinnamon, 2 teaspoons
Minced Fresh Ginger Root, 1 teaspoon
Ground Cloves, ¼ teaspoon
Water, 1 cut
Minced Onion, ½ cup
Granny Smith Apple, ½ cup
Celery, ½ cup finely chopped
In a thick-bottomed pan, combine the dried cranberries, fresh cranberries, sugars, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and water then bring to a boil using medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 7 minutes or until cranberries start to pop.
Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to cook over low for about ten minutes or until the chutney starts to thicken. Allow to cool and transfer to glass jars for storage. Let sit for at least 24 hours so that all of the flavors will meld together.