Tag Archives: chutney

Never give up.

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Sometimes, it takes a little extra effort to get a dish right. We’re gonna eventually get to plum chutney here. Stick with me.

This year at Christmas I wrote on the holiday menu, “I’ve been wanting to make a Bûche de Noël for years. Simple in concept, enchanting in execution, this sponge cake, rolled with buttercream and frosted with ganache, is shaped to look like a log, decorated with meringue mushrooms. That said, I have never made one before. It will be part of the grand adventure of this year’s Christmas dinner. Or, it will fail miserably and I’ll put out a plate of Mom’s cookies. Either way you win.”

The buttercream took me two tries. The cake took three. After the second try my Mom suggested that a plate of cookies would be “just as special,” but I was determined.

What does this have to do with plum chutney? In the test kitchen this week we tried four different versions. There was broad disagreement on a winner, ultimately, because there wasn’t one. I woke up Friday morning determined to get it right. My Saturday morning demos at Eastern Market are a passion and while I don’t want to let “perfect” be the enemy of “good,” just good is never good enough.

After reading another fifteen chutney recipes, a new plan emerged. Ginger and cardamom were replaced by cinnamon and star anise. A different vinegar, Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry, offered more depth, spice and acidity than its predecessors. More sugar brought out the fruit that had been dull in previous attempts.

The extra effort paid off at dinnertime. The chutney paired wonderfully with salt-and-fennel crusted, roast pork tenderloin. Or just spread it with cream cheese on a bagel.

Plum Chutney

My test batch at home included jalapeño but I didn’t see any at the market this week. It tasted great both ways!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped plums, about 6
  • 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup diced red onion, about 1 medium
  • 1/2 jalapeño minced
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 star anise pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry Vinegar*

*One of my favorites from Sapore, well worth the online order. Can’t wait for it to ship? Try 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 Sherry vinegar for both high acidity and depth.

Directions:

  • Mix together ingredients in a 3-quart saucepan and cook 30 minutes, until thick and bubbly. The plums will release a lot of liquid. Start heat at medium high and lower as chutney reduces to avoid burning.
  • Remove cinnamon and star anise pods.
  • Cool to room temperature and chill. The chutney will last up to a week in the refrigerator, or can be canned or frozen.
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Rule 1: No one cooks better than Mom.

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Our weeknight dinners are built around turning the bags of farm-fresh produce we carry home each weekend into new recipes for Saturday morning demos at Washington, DC’s Eastern Market. Recently, our friend Sam has joined us for Thursday night’s six-hour marathon sessions where we finalize Saturday’s menu.

Last week, eying a bag of Agora Farms black-red sweet cherries, he said” My Mom used to make a sweet and sour sauce with cherries and peaches. It started with a can each…”

I know. You’ve got a mental image of a loud record scratch accompanying this look of horror on my face. But you’re wrong. No one cooks better than your Mom. No one. At that goes for each and every one of you.

However, since Sam thought it would be fun to go home for a visit sometime and show Mom a new upscale version of her sweet and sour, cherry-peach chicken, we started experimenting. Sweet and sour dishes hang on the balance of sweet, acidic and salty. We began with shallot and fresh cherries, added brown sugar for sweetness and depth, and rosemary for a savory bite. Peach infused vinegar replaced the canned peaches and orange zest add citrusy brightness. The cherries we had were so sweet, and the the peach vinegar mildly acidic, that we added a splash of sharper vinegar to finish the thick, jammy, sweet and sour cherry chutney. Then we served it over wild boar sausages.

I’m still willing to bet that Sam’s Mom’s is better. After all, Mom’s who cook are nigh invincible in the kitchen. But we had a pretty darn-good meal.

Sweet and Sour Cherry Chutney

Sweet and sour is all about the balance of sugar, salt and vinegar. Taste often as you finish the sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs grape seed or vegetable oil
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 4 cups sweet cherries, pitted and quartered
  • 3 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tbs minced rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
  •  Peach Vinegar*
  • Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry Vinegar*
*More wonderful vinegars from Sapore Oil and Vinegar on Capitol Hill. You can substitute with any fruit vinegar, just make sure you get enough acidity. We used about 1/4 cup Peach vinegar and reduced it down slightly as the chutney finished cooking. A splash of the Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry vinegar gave us the extra acidity that we needed. Sherry or cider vinegar would be a good substitute.
Directions:
  • In a small sauté pan, warm oil and cook shallots over medium heat until soft, without browning.
  • Increase heat to medium high and add cherries. Sauté 5 minutes until cherries start to soften and liquid begins to evaporate.
  • Reduce heat back down to medium. Add sugar and cook another 5 minutes until chutney starts to become jammy.
  • Add rosemary and orange zest and cook another 5-10 minutes until chutney is thick.
  • Season to taste with salt and vinegar. This sauce is all about balance, so taste after each addition of salt or vinegar. If your fruit vinegar is not acidic enough, add a splash of something a bit sharper. Add more sugar if needed.