Chutney is a product traditionally associated with curries and Indian food… and for good reason. The Hindi word "catni" means spicy, and refers to fruits and/or vegetables that have been slowly cooked into a jam-like condiment. The addition of sugar, spices and vinegar adds flavor and ensures the chutney will keep for a long time. While it's true that many chutneys are fiery hot, there are also tamer versions; some, like Major Grey's, a mildly-spiced mango-based chutney, were created for English tastes during the Raj.

Making chutney

Making your own chutney allows you to individualize the recipe to suit your own taste and tolerance for heat. You can even customize the spices and ingredients to match the dish that the chutney will accompany. Though fruit is generally the main ingredient, many chutneys include vegetables as well… the combinations are limited only by your imagination! Slightly under-ripe firm fruit works well (apples, apricots, peaches, mangos, bananas, etc.) Green tomatoes or rhubarb are good, too, and add a pleasing tartness. Soft berries (e.g., raspberries or strawberries) are not recommended since they will break down completely during cooking and their delicate flavor will be overpowered. However dried fruit (raisins, currants, cranberries, etc.) are excellent since they retain their shape and provide a good counterpoint to the sweet and spicy notes.

Around the world

While unquestionably Indian in origin, chutneys are now popular throughout the world and are often adapted to local tastes. Western cooks might substitute apple for mango when making chutney.

And in North America, chutney may take the place of cranberry sauce as an accompaniment to the Thanksgiving turkey.

How to use it

The sweet-sour-spicy combination that is such a perfect complement to curry dishes is well-suited to roast meats, particularly assertive flavors such as game, but also with beef, lamb, pork and poultry. Chutney is also a good partner for cheese and is delicious on crackers or toast. It can be used to spice up relatively neutral foods, such as potatoes, rice and pasta. And it is a perfect counterpoint to terrines, pâtés and other charcuterie products. What's more, chutney can be served cold, warm or hot.

Is chutney the same as relish?

Chutneys, relishes and certain other condiments have obvious similarities. Adding to the confusion is the fact that chutneys and relishes can both be either sweet or savory. The main distinction, however, is the texture: chutneys are usually fairly chunky and more jam-like in consistency (owing to their long cooking), while relishes are cooked for a shorter time and with less sugar, giving them a crisper texture, a more liquid consistency and a tarter flavor.

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