Pears For The Picking
What Is Chutney?
The word 'chutney', which has become part of the English language like other words such as 'bungalow', veranda, and many others, actually comes from a Sanskrit word 'catni', meaning 'to lick' so is recognized as an accompaniment to a meal that is associated with South Asian cooking.
Chutneys have always been popular because they can be made from so many everyday ingredients like tomatoes, pears, apples etc. which are inexpensive, in season, and can often be found on the ground as windfall. The fantastic thing about making chutney is that the ingredients don't have to be in perfect condition. Following a windy autumn day and armed with a bag or basket you will find more than enough ingredients to make several batches of chutney that will last you into next year even if you decide to give away a few jars to friends and the relatives. The bruised and rotten parts of the fruit/vegetable can be removed leaving plenty to add to the pot.
It is rather a good feeling to know that you only have to use a grocery store for a few ingredients but the bulk of the ingredients are there for the taking. Making jams and chutneys also goes a long way to establishing a good relationship with your neighbours who grow a surplus of fruits and vegetables. Use their surplus and promise them a few jars of your own chutney as a thank you.
A Bit Of Chutney History
Chutneys were made to preserve ingredients for later use before refrigeration. They were carried by the Romans as they marched across Europe. They later came to the attention of the British in India who in turn exported chutneys to Britain's colonies in America and Australia.
Many of the ingredients used in chutneys supply more than just taste but also medicinal properties. Citrus fruits used in chutneys were given to the British sailors to prevent scurvy and chili peppers from the Americas also contain Vitamin C, antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties. The ingredients could easily be administered by means of a tasty, spicy combination that would last and last.
Britain today is obsessed with Indian food which has become more popular than the traditional fish and chips.In our town which only has a population of 2,400, prior to the holiday season, has two Indian restaurants and the local pubs offer several curries with poppadoms, naan and chutney. The village down the road which is even smaller has a Balti restaurant and several pubs that offer the same Indian fare. Tastes have changed as more and more people are looking for a touch of spice, and some, a red, hot spicy experience.
Pears and Ginger: A Magical Combination
In our former house we had a pear tree that produced masses of pears. My father liked eating the pears when they were still under ripe and the rest of the family ate them when they were at their most juicy.However, when the pears were just ripe I would gather them and start a batch of ginger-pear chutney.
Unfortunately, the tree was struck by lightning one summer and it lost one of its main branches. It continued to produce pears the next year but eventually the whole tree died and it had to be chopped down. Not having a ready supply of pears, I rarely made this chutney until we moved into our present house. We soon discovered that Jean, our lovely next door neighbour, has a healthy pear tree growing by our adjoining fence which often drops its pears into our garden - wow what a windfall and a good excuse to start making the ginger-pear chutney once again.
I now make enough for our family but also give away jars of chutney to friends and neighbours, especially to Jean!
Use Your Imagination When It Comes To Making Chutney
I haven't been particularly adventurous when it comes to making chutney. There are so many kinds of chutneys I have discovered in my research and I am sure I have hardly scratched the surface.I am very partial to ginger so I have opted to make this ginger-pear chutney and, as it is so well liked, I have continued to make this recipe and a spicy apple-tomato chutney which I made when I had a glut of tomatoes and apples one year.
Chutneys can be made from mangoes, limes, coconuts, oranges, guava, eggplant, radishes, potatoes, green and red chilies, papaya, pineapples, dates and even peanuts, okra, niger seed (uchellu), gourds and dried fish and the list goes on. A good Indian cookbook would be a good place to start to expand your knowledge of chutneys.
Indian Cookbooks With Chutney Recipes
- 2 kilograms Bartlett pears, ripe, but still firm
- 2 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups golden raisins or mixed fruit
- 3 tbsp. candied ginger, slivered
The chopping begins
Ginger-Pear Chutney: A Step-By-Step Guide
- Peel and chop the pears, and onions and place in a large bowl.
- Cut the candied ginger and the fresh ginger into thin slivers and add to the pears and onions in the bowl. Add the golden raisins or mixed fruit to the bowl.
- In a large, heavy saucepan combine the measured sugar, vinegar, salt, cayenne and ground ginger. Bring to a boil stirring often until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the contents of the large bowl: the pears, onions, ginger, raisins to the vinegar, sugar, salt, cayenne, and ground ginger in the large saucepan and bring back to the boil.
- At this point, turn down the heat and simmer for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture looks like a syrup and the pears are translucent.
Canning Your Chutney
Canning applies to the method of preparing foods like jams, marmalades, salsas, pickles, chutneys etc. which prevents spoilage by heating the contents contained in glass jars. The canning process kills any bacteria and removes air from the product so you are left with a tight seal. It gives the product a much longer shelf life.
To begin with, determine how many jars and lids you need for your recipe. Wash the jars in hot, soapy water or put them in a dishwasher and dry. Wash the lids and check that the lids are in good order with no worn parts or scratches. Then you are ready.
The recommended method of canning for chutneys and high acid combinations is the 'Water Bath' method. You can buy special pots which have slots for each jar or you can use a large, deep saucepan with some kind of a rack so the jars aren't sitting on the bottom of the pot.
Fill the large pot half-full with water. Bring to the boil then bring down to a simmer while placing the jars inside. Boil the jars for a few minutes with the lid on the pot then carefully remove the jars from the water. A jar lifter is a handy device to have if you do a lot of canning but you can use tongs or some kind of heat proof glove.
Empty the water from the jars and fill each jar with the mixture using a clean metal funnel. Clean any sticky chutney from the rim of the jars with a clean cloth and place the seal and lid on each jar.
Place the jars in the rack, if using, and lower into the pot of water that is deep enough to cover the jars by 1 or 2 inches, place the lid on the pot and boil for 5 to 10 minutes then turn off the heat and let the jars stand in the pot for 5 minutes. Place the jars on a towel and leave for a few hours to cool. You should notice a good seal, if not, repeat the process.
Chutneys and Preserves
There are so many decorative yet functional jars with attractive lids that are now on the market. Add a pretty label, detailing the contents of the jar and a little piece of your favourite material fastened by ribbon under the lid and you have a very attractive product for gift giving and as an addition to your kitchen shelf.