Chutney is one of those idiot-proof condiments, so easy to prepare that there will NEVER be a Ronco or K-tel “Chutney Wonder” late nite infomercial. Originally a condiment that appeared in Indian cooking, wet or dry chutneys have typically been made from mint, coriander and onion, but have been bastardized by inventive and curious cooks for years looking to come up with a sauce or tangy side relish to compliment any number of meats, or to act as a substitute for gravies.
With Thanksgiving approaching, the thought of opening a can of cranberry sauce or boiling up a bag of the sour berries can be a cause for both nostalgia and boredom, but with a little derring-do you can easily whip up your own destined to be a hit chutney in the time it takes to boil your spuds.
Typically a chutney has a base of onion, or tomato, another fruit or two, some brown sugar and an acid such as apple cider vinegar. Red peppers and chilies are also options for those that want to add colour, keep a theme going or add some heat to a sweet and sour side. The fun thing about making chutney is that you can be pretty creative, bending the rules to fit your whim or take advantage of the fruit you have on hand.
Here is a super simple “recipe” for a rustic Thanksgiving chutney that can take the place of cranberry sauce. The process is fun and simple, and can be a great way to get your kids to help out, from prepping the veg to being chief taster and consultant. The tang of the sauce will act as a nice counterpart to the richness of your yams, or gravy covered mashed potatoes, and will zap you out of your tryptophan-induced stupor. You will notice that there are no exact measurements included; that is because the joy and fun of making your own chutney revolves around your willingness to be a little daring, taste as you go, and make it your own. Just don’t add garlic or wormwood.
When preparing your fruit, don’t chop it too fine, the chutney should not be a puddle running all over your plate but should have some chunks in it.
Put your pot on the stove with a little olive oil and caramelize a sliced onion over low to medium heat. Once it is browning nicely, add a chopped unsliced apple or two, half a thinly sliced red pepper a quarter of a cup of vinegar (apple cider, red wine or white wine) and about half a cup of brown sugar or maple syrup. Let this simmer for about half an hour or so until the apple breaks down. Add about ¼ cup of currants so they soften up a bit, then add a cup of cranberries and or blueberries and cook for about another 15 minutes.
Now the fun part: tasting and tinkering. Is it sweet enough for your liking? Think of what you are serving, whether this will “go” with the turkey or the other side dishes. Maybe you want it to be a little more sour, no problem, add a little more vinegar. Taste. Ponder. Discuss with the little darlings. Not sweet enough? You know what to do. Want a little heat? Add a knife tip of harissa or sriracha sauce.
If the chutney seems too wet, but tastes good, strain the liquid from the solid, return the former to heat and reduce to a more syrupy consistency. Then reincorporate to the solids.
If the chutney seems to be too dry, add a little water or juice. Taste, marvel, congratulate yourself and high five your brood.
Depending on when you make your chutney, you can serve it hot or cold, like a relish. Either way, it is your creation and a nice break from the everyday. You can also use it to make leftover turkey sandwiches the next day. Something to be thankful for.