A Chutney Recipe for our locale
Chutney is a delicious condiment which originated from India and spread far and wide thereafter. Chutney usually combines a multitude of taste sensations — sweet, sour, hot, spicy, bitter–so that the mouth is overwhelmed with flavor. During colonial times, the British brought this food over to the West, adding their own flares to the sauce with their own native fruits. Here, we mix the flavors of tamarind with our North American high bush cranberry, to make a delicious chutney.
Tamarind mixed with our native Viburnum
Tamarind is a popular fruit around the world which is indigenous to Africa , but has been grown in India for a very long time, and is often used in Indian chutneys. We used mostly sweet Tamarind for this recipe and a few sour Tamarind. Usually people buy whole, driedTamarind at specialty stores, sometimes in a box. We used the tamarinds to make our own paste, as shown below, but you could just as easily buy the paste ready made.
With this sweet exotic, we wanted to find a fruit that is local and had a somewhat sour taste. Though there is not a lot growing out in the woods this time of year (currently, we’re in the middle of a hard and cold midwest winter), we knew of a plant that maintained its berries despite this hoary frost: one of our native viburnums. The common name for this plant, at least around here, is high bush cranberry. As you can see the berries look like little cranberries and it has a similar flavor as well but perhaps more bitter:
Usually folks find high bush cranberry growing in moist woods north of planting zone 7. The first time I found one was in a small riparian zone in the middle of a city park. These wet places have a lot of wild edibles in the spring, but in the winter, the high bush cranberries are some of the only berries hanging off the trees. You should pick the berries after a frost, as it somewhat deadens the intense bitter flavor. Because of that flavor, many folks make the viburnum into jams, the sweetness also complimenting and somewhat softening the flavor. We thought the sweetness of the tamarind would do the same for the fruit in our chutney.
Tamarind paste is super easy to make. In short, here’s what we did:
First, we removed the hard shell off the pods.
We covered the fruit in water, got it up to a boil and then turned down the heat and simmered until we could separate the fruit from the seeds.
After we removed most of the pulp, we rinsed the seeds in hot water and strained through a sieve, dumping the water into the pan with the pulp.
Then we boiled this mash down until thick, and voila, we made tamarind paste.
Time for the Chutney
For our chutney recipe, we used tamarind paste to high bush cranberries in about a 3:1 mix.
That is 3 cups paste to about 1 cup of the berries.
Here are the rest of the ingredients:
- 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup ginger diced
- two small onions diced
- 1/4 cup of raisins
- red pepper flakes and salt to taste
We stirred all of this into the tamarind paste and cooked at a low heat.
Once the paste had thickened a bit more, we let it cool and used it as condiment, served with venison and rice and a banana flower salad.
Chutney is great on both meats and vegetable dishes, and also delicious scooped right out of the jar.
Do you have a favorite chutney recipe to share? Leave a comment below.