On one such post-finals let-down, I came across a sexy little sammie that they called an avocado melt: avocado, swiss, mayo and peach chutney--three delicious sources of fat and a single source of sweet, sour and spice. A winner! Once again, after its important role in the American taco, chutney proved itself a game changer.
So I went on a little chutney bender over spring break. But it was the best kind of bender; I made three recipes supplied by one of my new favorite cookbooks: Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning. I take it as a guide for resource management in a post-oil economy, but it could also just be a charming collection of traditional recipes from real French people. The authors are "The Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante", Terre Vivante being a southeastern France-based research and education center focused around eco-farming, -gardening and -building. American hippies are great but I imagine French hippies have older recipes.
Turns out chutney doesn't have to be preserved. Back in its homeland, it's actually made fresh for each meal, but us busy city folks might like to put up a bunch of it at once, either to give us a self-righteous sense that we are industrious homesteaders, or to save on future dishwashing at the very least. Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning shares recipes for--of all things--how to can chutney, but unlike most canning recipes these don't require a 15 minute water bath, so maybe that's why the Terre Vivante editors don't count these as canning. Healthfully, the recipes are also intentionally relatively low sugar and vinegar compared with most chutney recipes.
Of the three varieties I tried--Apple, Mango and Onion--my favorite was the recipe I used for mango, because it's flexible and you can use any fruit and spices you want. I include my fruit and spice choices below, mostly just for you recipe followers out there. The rest of you, adapt away, but be careful with the volumes of the important things like fruit, vinegar and sugar which I assume are important to the chutney actually being preserved.
2 lbs fruit and/or vegetables (I used mangoes and an onion)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup vinegar
herbs and spices (I used 3 tablespoons ginger, 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, and 1/3 cup raisins)
several canning jars with lids
baking soda for washing
wide mouth funnel (very handy, but not necessary)
Wash and chop the fruit and cook along with the spices over medium heat until soft and reduced. Add the sugar and vinegar and continue to cook until you're happy with the consistency. While the chutney is cooking down, boil the lids (at least 5 minutes) wash the jars with boiling water and baking soda and set upside down on a clean towel. Fill each jar, one at a time, with very hot chutney, make sure the rim is clean, and cap. Twist the lids down tight and set aside to cool. If you've never undertaken a canning project, consult a grandma with a good canning track record, or a more traditional canning cookbook for tips and tricks.