Thursday, September 20, 2007

Chutney, Chutney, Chutney

I've never made homemade chutney before. And in fact, I've only eaten chutney a few times in my adult life- and that is always with Indian food. I've bought a few jars of mango chutney in the past, and while good with the curries...really, imo, nothing spectacular.

But yesterday, I received an e-mail from my mom that she had a tree loaded with seckel pears, and did I have any ideas? First of all, you need to understand that these are very small pears-about golf ball size. So committing to doing something with seckel pears is a commitment of time. So I flipped through my Ball Blue Book, looking for anything to do with pears. There's not much. We already have quarts upon quarts of canned pears, so I didn't want to do that. A pear preserve sounded promising-and with seckel pears, you preserve them whole, but then I saw Pear Chutney. I had all the ingredients on hand, and I was just plain intrigued. So I started to peel, core and finely chop pears.

And then I peeled, cored, and finely chopped pears. After a while I looked at my bowl of chopped pears and eyeballed the recipe, and determined that I needed to cut the recipe in half. Since it wouldn't do to make 7 pints of chutney if I didn't like it. (Hey whatever it takes to rationalize NOT cutting up all those tiny pears.) I added the onion, hot pepper, raisins, mustard seeds, brown sugar and vinegar and set the chutney to simmering. It took just over an hour for the chutney to simmer down to a lovely thick and chunky sauce. One taste, and the possibilities were running through my head as I lovingly ladled this stuff into jars. This would be amazing aside a simply roasted cut of pork. It would be phenomenal atop a bowl of butter chicken and rice. I wondered how it would be next to my Thanksgiving turkey. In short, I'm in love. This chutney is nothing like the stuff you buy in a jar. It's amazing- sweet, tart, slightly spicy from the hot pepper, it's a bite of flavor. I can't wait to use it.

And I'm thinking about all those seckle pears still on the tree. I wonder if I can convince my husband to climb up into that tree and pick me some more? Here's the recipe for Peach or Pear Chutney. Obviously I made it with pears, but I do wonder about the peaches, which also makes me think this chutney would be good with ham too...

Peach or Pear Chutney
from the Ball Blue Book

Yield: About 7 pints

4 quarts finely chopped, peeled, pitted peaches or pears (about 20 medium)
2 to 3 cups brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
1/4 cup mustard seed
2 tablespoons ginger
2 teaspoons salt
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 hot red pepper, finely chopped
5 cups vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot. Simmer until thick. (This could take anywhere from 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.) Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Ladle hot chutney into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Recipe variation: For a milder chutney, remove seeds from hot pepper.
Note: When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.

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