Preserving the Harvest: Spicy (Plum) Chutney

Before cooking

I recently moved back to New York City to finish my last semester of college (insert anxiety attack here). In order to maintain my farm-to-table eating habits as much as possible, I joined a fall CSA. At the first pickup, I was lucky enough to grab a big bag of plums. The farm was practically giving them away!

For a week I couldn’t decide how to use them. A plum crumble or cake? Perhaps a tart? Do I simply roast them in the oven and eat with some (dairy-free) yogurt? Or sit down and gorge myself on fresh raw plums? While all these options sounded good, my heart just wasn’t in them. I wanted to take these plums in a different direction, one appropriate for fall.

Savory. Spicy. Warming. All signs pointed to chutney. Chutney is simple a spicy fruit compote, usually made with onions, ginger, chili, and cinnamon. I used plums, but practically any fruit could be used including tomatoes, apples, apricots, or peaches. I used cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and chili powder for my chutney, but you could use nutmeg, mustard seed and chili flakes as well. Lemon zest could be added for extra acidity (my plums were quite sour). I included raisins to add texture, but you could use cranberries or any other dried fruit, or just omit it entirely.

The finished chutney can be eaten on toast for breakfast. It can be stirred into brown rice and lentils, or spread on soft slices of naan. It goes particularly well with cheese, and would make an exciting addition to a cheese plate. It can be used as a basting sauce or condiment for dark meats, especially pork. My secret use? Toss cubed sweet potatoes in a few spoonfuls of chutney before roasting. Prepare to be amazed.

Alexis ZK is an undergraduate at New York University studying French and Food Studies. Split between her farm-girl heritage and city-girl lifestyle, she focuses on pursuing the Farm-To-Table ethic in NYC. On any given day you can find her harvesting in a rooftop garden or cooking in a restaurant kitchen. Sometimes she is lucky enough to stay at home, where she indulges her passion for cooking things that others choose to buy, like jams, breads, crackers, or sauces. Follow her adventures here.


Basic (Plum) Chutney
Adapted from Marisa McClellan at The Kitchn
Makes about 3 half pints

4 cups chopped plums (about 2 pounds)
1 cup minced onion
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
(I used powdered, but fresh grated would be better)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon red chili

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Place pot over high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring regularly.

As the chutney begins to thicken, stir more frequently. To test for doneness, dip a cold metal spoon into the chutney. If the chutney evenly coats and sticks to the spoon, it is done. If you want a more liquid chutney (perfect for coatings roasts), cook for less time. If you want chutney for your morning toast, cook it a bit longer. Remember that as the chutney cools it will set-up more, so do not over cook.

Let the chutney cool, then transfer to half pints. The half pints can be processed in a water bath for 10 minutes, or can be stored in the fridge and eaten within a few months.

Originally posted on Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

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