Free-form chutneys commingle fruits, veggies

Forgiving. That’s how food-section columnist Jan Roberts-Dominguez described chutneys, those chunky, tangy, sweet-salty condiments that can contain all manner of fruits, vegetables and aromatics.

I’m ready for a forgiving form of preserving since helping a friend can whole and sauced tomatoes in an all-day marathon spent monitoring his additions of lemon juice. Then I was summoned to a brainstorming session with another friend who wanted to salvage a windfall of plums sans pectin. Anything that doesn’t require a recipe at this point is right up my alley.

Considering a bag of Comice pears that refuse to ripen, I think “chutney.” Ditto for my garden’s green tomatoes. Just about anything can constitute chutney given the right combination of seasonings.

Jan acknowledged that chutney is basically as vital to Indian cuisine as salsa is to Mexican. But her column didn’t chart chutney’s journey during the British colonial era across the Indian and Atlantic oceans to Europe. As a result, chutney recipes were modified somewhat with additions of vinegar to give them a longer shelf life. And ingredients were expanded to include the seasonal bounty of English orchards —apples, quince and damson plums — along with sweet, dried fruits such as raisins for added flavor.

That explanation came courtesy of a 2016 story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which also offered these tips for making your own chutneys.

•       Always start with the freshest ingredients. If the fruit has bruised spots, cut them out.

•       Cook the chutney in a nonreactive pan, such as stainless steel, glass or enamel-lined cast-iron. Aluminum and copper react with acidic foods, imparting a metallic taste.

•       Keep an eye on the cooking pot. Because it contains sugar, chutney can easily burn.

•       Cook the fruit down until it’s thick and fairly dry. You’ll know it’s done when the mixture sticks to the back of the spoon. It shouldn’t be runny.

•       Don’t be afraid to experiment with different fruits and spices. Something you’re not particularly fond of eating out of hand can be magically transformed when cooked with sugar and vinegar.

That’s how I feel about this recipe, which brightens carrots with fresh ginger, calling to mind really good versions of carrot cake. Golden raisins are a natural, given their pairing with shredded carrots in a classic salad.

This crunchy, spicy chutney can be served with feta, farmer’s cheese or any other salty pressed cheese. It’s also delicious with cold meats or on top of rice.

Tribune News Service photo

Spiced Carrot Chutney

1 pound medium carrots

1 small yellow onion

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 cup white-wine vinegar

2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Peel carrots and trim off tops and bottoms. Grate carrots on largest holes of a box grater. Yield will be about 3 cups. Set aside.

Peel the onion. Grate it on largest holes of box grater. Set aside.

In a blender jar, puree the garlic, ginger and vinegar, on high, for 2 minutes or until smooth.

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until most liquid is reduced.

Remove chutney from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Serve at room temperature.

Makes 2 cups.

— Recipe from “Composing the Cheese Plate: Recipes, Pairings and Platings for the Inventive Cheese Course,” by Brian Keyser and Leigh Friend (Running Press, September 2016, $22).

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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