Sunday, December 18, 2016

Fig-Cranberry Chutney

Figs, cranberries and chopped pecans all join together in this great sweet and tangy chutney. It is excellent served with baked brie or spooned over cream cheese and crackers, but is also delicious served with smoked turkey, roast pork or lamb.

What is Chutney?
Chutney is a condiment usually associated with Indian cuisine but its sweet, spicy, tangy flavors work well with recipes from many other cultures. It is found in most grocery stores but is quite simple to make at home.

As ingredients and recipes become less regional and more global many people find themselves faced with a dish that calls for an ingredient they’ve never heard of. Chutney is often one of these. This condiment is a type of relish that can be sweet or spicy (or both) although most commercially prepared chutneys found in the United States will be sweet.

The word chutney is derived from an Indian word chatni which means crushed. Originally the ingredients were ground by hand into a thick, flavorful paste with a mortar and pestle. It was made fresh before each meal and therefore did not require vinegar or sugar to preserve it.

During the British Colonial era the soldiers and their families that lived in India learned to appreciate the unique flavors of Indian foods like curries and chutneys. As these soldiers moved from country to country they took their love for chutney with them, introducing it to South Africa, the Caribbean, and their homeland in Great Britain.

Since many of the countries they were sent to didn't have the same fruits, spices, and herbs as those available in India, the chutneys began to take on regional flavors as native people and cultures used the ingredients available to them. Over the years the ingredients and flavors of chutney increased until there were almost as many variations of the relish as there were cooks making it.

How do you use chutney?
Chutney is most commonly used as a condiment and often accompanies curry dishes and various meats. You will also see it used in appetizers, with cheese, in side dishes, and even in desserts.

Chutney pairs well with ham, smoked turkey, and other smoked meats. It also balances the flavors in richly flavored meats like lamb or game meats.

Use it as the starting place for unique appetizers. You may be familiar with baked brie or cream cheese with chutney spooned over it to be served with crackers. You can also use it as a dip for tempura, coconut, or grilled shrimp.

1/2 cup brown sugar, unpacked
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/ 2 cup red wine
2 cups figs (fresh or frozen), stems removed and quartered
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Soak cranberries in a bowl of hot water for 10 minutes; drain. In a saucepan, melt sugar with vinegar and wine. Add figs, onion, cranberries, and spices (ginger, allspice and nutmeg).

Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer about 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently, and cook until liquid is absorbed. Stir in pecans and spoon chutney into prepared jars leaving 1/4-inch head-space. Cover jars with lids and finger tighten rings.

Process jars in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Remove jars and allow to cool 24 hours on a kitchen towel on your counter-top. Jars are sealed when button in the middle of the lid is fully depressed and won't flex up and down.

Store in pantry up to one year.

Yield: 5 - 4 oz jars


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