Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Chutneys, pt. 1

Well, I first got into making savory preserves (well, sweet and savory preserves) about a year ago when I returned from a trip to France and started making my own oignons confits. By the New Year, I'd found the ideal recipe, gotten the feel for how to get the mixture to gel perfectly, and come up with my own signature version of the recipe. It took me a while to branch out further, but over the last few months I've become interested in developing other preserves, and this week I've been working on my chutneys. I was inspired by a piece in the most recent issue of Saveur on the Semler family of Maine and their annual plum chutney-making ritual (and by the fact that our friend Camilla promptly made the Semler family's recipe with some of the beautiful Italian plums that you can find at the market these days, and was kind enough to bring us one of her jars).

It hasn't been the best year for apples in this region, as we reported earlier last week, but it's been a phenomenal year for tomatoes. The tomato season started early this year, and it's lasted about at least 2-3 weeks longer than I've ever experienced in Montreal. This means that if you haven't had a chance to take advantage of this year's tomatoes, you still have time. We were just at the Jean-Talon market the other day, and the tomatoes aren't nearly as perfect as they were a month ago, but they're still pretty nice and they're very cheap. You could still make some tomato sauce or some ketchup aux fruits (as I intend to do later this week). You could also make some tomato chutney.

I found this recipe (and the recipe to follow in part 2) in Patricia Brown's impressive and thoughtful, if homely, Anglo-Indian Food and Customs. If ever there was an example of a cookbook that one shouldn't judge by its cover, this is it. The top half of the front cover has a pretty nice photo of some kind of Caribbean-looking lobster dish, but it's paired with a photo of some strange, heavily-iced assortment of cakes, and the combo makes for quite a clash--add to this some 1970s food photo aesthetics and you've got a riot on (or in, as the case may be) your hands. There are plenty of amazing recipes on the inside, though, and her recipe for tomato chutney goes as follows:

Tomato Chutney

1/2 cup cooking oil
1 tsp mustard seeds (I used brown ones)
500 g firm, ripe tomatoes, blanched and peeled
3 lg onions, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tsp salt

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and when they sputter lower the heat and add the next 6 ingredients. Simmer the mixture until it has the consistency of a soft jam (this should take about 20-30 minutes). Taste and adjust the seasoning. If you're going to can the chutney, keep it warm right up until the point that you pour the chutney into your sterilized jars. Otherwise, allow the chutney to cool before bottling it. If you choose not to can the chutney, it will keep for about 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Yield: 750 ml--I canned my batch in 3 x 250 ml jars and there was just enough left over to give Michelle a sample of the goods.

This tomato chutney turned out fantastic, excellent with curries of all kinds--Indian, Anglo-Indian, and otherwise--and delicious with a nice sharp cheddar, as in the photo above. The tomato chutney is the one on the right.

More on chutneys tomorrow...


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