Reflecting on the change in season we’ve seen this week with November fast approaching brings thoughts of traditional winter fare to mind. From mulled wine to chestnuts to sprouts, many of the gems of late autumn are appearing again in supermarkets in the run-up to the Christmas period. One of the joys of late autumn for many is this move towards strong savoury flavours, away from the salads of summer. Slow-roast meats, cheeses and curries begin to look increasingly appealing as the skies outside darken.
An overlooked condiment of the season, now on shelves year round, is chutney. With a rich and diverse history, chutney is often type-cast as the accompaniment to a curry in the UK, containing apple, mango, vinegar and raisins. However the potential of preserved and fresh chutney is often overlooked by all except the most adventurous home chef.
Let’s take a look at the evolution of this condiment through time and across oceans to the dazzling array of its varieties in modern times.
Chutney as a condiment was first created in India, many hundreds of years ago. Our name for the condiment is derived from the Indian word chatni, thought to mean crushed. At this time the combination of spices with chillies, garlic, tamarind and lime was found to preserve cooked meats for much longer before they spoiled. Only very occasionally was fruit used in the recipe! These relishes would have been made fresh without the usual preserving agents used today, and as such they would have been far more similar to a salsa than to the contemporary notion of chutney. A wide variety of chutneys would be served alongside a main meal, often curries, to enliven and enhance the flavours of the meats or vegetables, making often repetitive foods more exciting.
The next evolution in the history of chutney arrived with the colonial occupation of India. In the 1800s. a semi-mythical soldier known as “Major Grey” from the Bengal Lancers devised a version of chutney that would be the forefather to chutney as it is widely known in the UK and the US today. Mixing mangoes, raisins, vinegar, chillies, garlic, sugar and spices together, he discovered a version of sweet chutney with sour notes, quite different to the original fresh salsa-like condiment. The major advantage to the addition of vinegar was of course to aid preservation, allowing the condiment to be jarred and transported with soldiers back to the UK.
Needless to say, chutney caught on as the latest taste of the exotic in Great Britain at the time. As soldiers returned from India and travelled on to other outposts in the Empire, they took this condiment with them. Intriguingly chutney evolved differently in each of these cultures depending on the foodstuffs available. South African chutneys often include pears, apricots and dates, Caribbean chutneys are typically made from pineapples, bananas or coconut and US variations often use peaches, being milder than other versions.
The possibilities for cooking with chutneys, considering its varying sweetness and heat, are nearly endless. Typically good with strong flavours such as meats, cheeses, even fish, as a sweet-sour condiment it can be used for dressings, dips, glazes, marinades and fresh as a salsa. To give you an idea of the possibilities, all of the following have been used to make chutneys around the world:
- Green and Red Chillies
- Green and Red Tomatoes
Processing chutney in a home-style kitchen can take around two hours depending on the reduction achieved and with such a long time cooking, the freshness of the colours and flavours can become compromised. With the help of a Qbo cut-cook-cool vessel, a pasteurized product can be achieved in just 25 minutes of cook time, with a fresh chutney possible from frozen ingredients in 12.
To find out more about the possibilities offered by Roboqbo cut-cook-cool vessels, call Holmach Ltd on 01780 749097 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .