Cheer for Chutney + Winner Announced

Chutney, relish, conserves, and jellies have all but disappeared from most of our everyday dinner tables, but they were a fixture in days gone by, especially at times of year when fresh produce was in short supply. I think these cheery little tastes ought to be brought back to the table more often, but at least they are still an expected and welcomed part of special holiday meals. And why not? Their piquant flavors play off the heartiness of meat, each enhancing the other, and they usually look like jewelry-in-a-dish. In fact, the word “piquant” itself is reason enough to make them — a word whose sound perfectly describes the experience of a mouthful of chutney, with that back-of-the-jaws tangy thrill. Peek-aun(t), peek-aun(t), peek-aun(t). Sorry, I get carried away.

Vinegar and sugar boiling down into syrup — a heady aroma, to be sure!

Anyway, a whirlwind three weeks has begun at our house, and I have been working hard these last couple of days to get a head-start on the fodder that will fuel all the activities. Yesterday it was beef stew, homemade bread, a dip for veggies, and chicken + stock. Today it is an apple cake with caramel frosting, Aunt Jolene’s Chicken Casserole (cousin to Poppyseed Chicken), Sloppy Joes, the veggie tray to go with the dip, and Cranberry Apple-Pear Chutney.

That’s what I’m sharing today. It started life as a Gourmet magazine recipe that my sister passed on to me several years ago. It was meant to be served with pork tenderloin and creamed corn, and that is a worthy purpose for it. Oh, and it was Apple-Raisin Chutney back then, but I immediately changed it to Apple-Date Chutney, since we bear with a couple of raisin-haters in this household. It didn’t suffer at all for the substitution, because it is just that kind of recipe.

Peel, core, and cut up the fruit

Then earlier this year my mom requested cranberry sauce of some kind to go with the crepes I was making for their big anniversary party. I wanted to do it for her. Problem was that I only had one bag of cranberries in the freezer, and they just aren’t available to buy at that time of year. It occurred to me that I could make the apple chutney and put cranberries in it instead of dates, which would give us the pretty color and the flavor but stretch my scant supply of berries.

Add the apples/pears to the vinegar/sugar mixture — the fruit gets this interesting puffy quality as it cooks.

Wow! Out of necessity comes invention and all that – I liked this version even more! I love it so much that it is usurping the usual slightly-tipsy cranberry sauce I make for Tday, although I am trying yet another variation by using half apples and half pears.

Add the cranberries for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

It truly has it all: pantry ingredients except for the fruit, foolproof, gorgeous, delicious, keeps pretty much forever, and can be made far in advance. Make it and give thanks for one Thanksgiving dish that is “done and done.”

This is a double-ish batch and it is a bad photo — much prettier in real life. From left to right: Tupperware bowl for far-in-future consumption, pretty glass bowl for Thanksgiving Dinner, little white custard cup for this Sunday’s Aunt Jolene’s Chicken Casserole, and tiny square Asian dish for the cook’s lunch. (If you were to spread a little cream cheese on a few crackers and spoon some warm chutney on them, I wouldn’t be the one to judge…)

Cranberry Apple (or Pear) Chutney
Makes about 4 cups

This is just what we want to eat with poultry of any kind. Use it at the holidays, certainly, but it is such a lovely touch beside chicken casseroles or on a sandwich, too. We served it at my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary party to accompany chicken and mushroom crepes, and it was a union almost as perfect as Mom’s and Dad’s.

2 c. apple cider vinegar
2 c. granulated sugar
2 lb. apples and/or pears, peeled, cored, and cut into ¾” pieces (about 7 c. prepared fruit)
¼ t. ground cloves
1 t. salt
up to 1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ t. ground ginger
3 c. cranberries, (one 12 oz. bag)

1. Stir vinegar and sugar in a heavy 3-4 qt. saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring further until syrupy and reduced to 1 ½ c., about 15 minutes.
2. Prepare apples and/or pears while syrup reduces.
3. Reduce heat to medium; add apples/pears and all other ingredients except cranberries. Stir to coat with syrup. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust heat down slightly if it threatens to boil over.
4. Stir in cranberries; cook for 10 more minutes.
5. Pour chutney into serving dishes. Cover and chill until serving. Mixture will thicken on standing.
This keeps a long time in the fridge. I really don’t know how long, but it is months rather than days or weeks.

The winner of the Le Creuset spatula giveaway was Heather Bunting. Hopefully she’ll get them in time to stir through the last of her Thanksgiving preparations. Heather writes about homemaking and childrearing topics over at Church Mouse. I’m sure you’ll enjoy and profit from reading her blog, so give her a visit!

Do you have a favorite relish-y thing to eat? It can come from Grandma, your own imagination, or the corner store. Share it here.

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16 Comments

  1. Posted November 16, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    This looks yummy. I may have to make it my new dish for our Thanksgiving dinner.
    Diana Dow recently posted..The Best Mother-in-law I Ever HadMy Profile

    • Posted November 16, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Let me know how it’s received if you do, Diana.
      Lori recently posted..5 Things You Can Do This Week for a Happy(er) Thanksgiving Next Week + Giveaway!My Profile

      • Posted November 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        I made it today. I love it. Everyone else is still overcome by the vinegar smell in the house. Next time I’ll make it way ahead of time. I know it’s going to be yummy with our turkey tomorrow.
        Diana Dow recently posted..Nebuchadnezzar’s DreamsMy Profile

        • Posted November 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          One other thing, it reminded me of the cranberry sauce they put on the turkey sandwich at Panera Bread.
          Diana Dow recently posted..Nebuchadnezzar’s DreamsMy Profile

          • Posted November 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

            Funny about the vinegar! After I made this and posted the blog post, one of the kids came home and first thing out of his mouth was, “Whoa, Mom! What *are* you cooking???”

            Never had that at Panera. I do love this kind of thing on turkey or chicken sandwiches, though.
            Lori recently posted..Real-LifeThanksgivingMy Profile

  2. Laura S
    Posted November 16, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    YES! I’ve been wanting to make chutney someday soon so this was perfectly timed.

  3. Videonana
    Posted November 16, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Mmm – can’t to have this with our Thanksgiving meal! You are right – the Chutney was perfect with the chicken/mushroom crepes!

  4. Posted November 17, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Of course, I love making chunky cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. With a hint of orange. Yum. I don’t make a chutney often, but this recipe inspires me. Thanks for sharing the various ways you plan to serve it.
    Carlinne recently posted..Cool Pictures: A Kitchen Must-HaveMy Profile

  5. Posted November 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I’d love to try the pear version! Yum! Apple sounds great too, but there is something extra special about pears. Preacher Man is crazy about condiments. I think they take up half of our fridge! I make a pretty traditional cranberry orange relish to go along with the ham or turkey each year. Maybe one year I’ll go out on a limb and try something new. 🙂

    And I’m so excited about the spatulas!! My grandmother never used a spatula and always got her bowls scraped perfectly clean with a table spoon. I really don’t know how she did it. Spatulas are so handy and are so much more efficient! I will certainly put them to good use! (And thanks for the plug for my blog! I’m most grateful!)

    • Alyssa
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 1:01 am | Permalink

      Whoot!!! Yay!! I know you’ll love them! They get used alllll the time at our house!

  6. Posted November 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Guess what just arrived!? Hooray for spatulas! I’m particularly excited that two are the “spoonula” variety because I accidentally left mine at HS Camp. Now I no longer have to do without! I’m a happy cook!

  7. Posted November 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Aaaaaand sorry for three posts in a row, but I remembered another holiday condiment we always try to have: pickled beets! I had them in a restaurant years ago where they pickled little beets about the size of a rubber bouncy ball whole and I thought they were so delicious! So when I grow beets in my garden I always specially pack and label a couple of jars of the tiny whole beets just for the holidays. (The big ones all get sliced up.)

    • Posted November 18, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      3 comments or 30 from you would always be welcomed. (Now if you start advertising Spanx or Birkenstocks or even worse spammy things like *some* comments I get to wade through on here, we’d have to talk!) I like pickled beets, too, and they are very popular here in PA Dutch country. Never made them, though.

      I’m glad the spatulas arrived so quickly — I know you’ll put them to good use. My grandmother was the same way with a regular tablespoon and also I think she often used a dinner fork to mix things and would scrape out just fine with it, too.
      Lori recently posted..Cheer for Chutney + Winner AnnouncedMy Profile

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