there are so many things i can say about this chutney. first, i was sitting (not literally) on a 1/2 bushel of 5 different types of perfect-specimen apples for the last week. brought to me by my fruit-growing friend and neighbor (don’t ya love those?) and just waiting for me to get my paws on them. i could say that each time i had cause to walk by those apples, perched to the brim of my wooden harvest basket, they would puff up, knowing they were destined for greatness.
i could also say that i almost called this chutney father-in-law chutney. that i planned to call it father-in-law chutney. that all week i was thinking about how my father-in-law loves chutney, and that he would be over the autumn moon when he received a couple of fat pint jars of a chutney made just for him. you see, my in-laws live in SC, and although one can buy chutney in SC, it’s not the chutney made by his favorite tigress-in-law. i have a chutney-lovin’ father-in-law, born and raised on the good stuff, but despite his indian decent, he cannot stomach too-hot chutney.
and here’s where the story darkens.
let me preface this part by clarifying that ‘too-hot’ from someone of indian decent isn’t necessarily the same ‘too-hot’ as some of y’all.
that being said.
yes, OK, i made the [first] amateur move of using dried habanero for my ‘chile’ powder and i also had just a wee little bit more than i first intended all crushed up nice in my mortar, and [second] flung it all in my chutney pot in a fit of “it’s 15 apples worth of chutney in there, what’s a little more heat?” no, i apparently did not realize that just a wee little bit more of crushed up habanero powder is the difference between numbing your upper lip and igniting your entire face-tongue-brain.
i realize that now.
despite the unfortunate series of mishaps that rendered this chutney edible only by fire-breathing dragons (M, and me, thankfully) and will have me back at the chutney pot for another go at father-in-law chutney, this chutney is all that i hoped it would be.
you see, before and beyond the clamp of heat that wraps around the throat with each and every swallow, there lies a perfect fall chutney. big and apple-y, filled with cold weather spices. reason, it’s true, for those pre-chutney beauties to hold their stems high. their puff-ups having not been in vain.
fire (or not) apple chutney
15 medium size apples, preferably a variety
juice of 3 lemons
2 teaspoons ghee or vegetable oil
2 cups chopped shallots (or red onions)
2 tablespoons sea salt
4 tablespoons ginger, peeled & chopped very fine or grated
4 tablespoons garam masala*
1/2 tablespoon chili powder**
2 1/2 cups light brown sugar (i use turbinado)
1 quart white wine vinegar
2 cups raisins
pint or smaller mason jars
yield: approximately 6 pints
1. prepare jars for hot water bath canning. jars do not need to be sterilized as they will be processed for 10 minutes.
2. place juice of lemons in a large bowl. peel, core and chop apples into 3/4 inch pieces. throw apple pieces in bowl as you chop, making sure to toss them now and again so the lemon juice disperses.
3. in a non-reactive pot (stainless or enameled iron) drop just two teaspoons of ghee or vegetable oil, melt, and add chopped shallots and salt and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes. add chopped ginger, stir for 1 minute. add garam masala and chile powder, stir for 30 seconds.
4. add apples and sugar, stir. add vinegar and bring to the boil. turn heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes. after 30 minutes add raisins, simmer until desired thickness is reached, approximately 15 more minutes.
you will need to stir more frequently as your chutney begins to thicken, certainly in the last 10-15 minutes. chutney is considered ready when you run your wooden spoon across the bottom of the pot and a line is drawn for a second or so before the chutney folds in on itself once again.
5. fill hot jars to 1/2 inch headspace and hot water bath process for 10 minutes.
even with a lessened heat factor this chutney is robust both in texture and taste. if you use a variety of apples and chop them only to a good 3/4 inch, some will completely break down and others will remain somewhat intact. garam masala has long been my version of ‘fall’ spice, it’s the familiar cinnamon-nutmeg combo that we all know and love, with a heavy hit of exotica.
this chutney will be equally at home aside a slab of cheddar or smothered in the middle of a grilled cheese sandwich as it will dolloped in the middle of a bowl of rice and lentils.
or in the case of my current lucky version – anytime i’m in need of a proper head explosion!
*garam masala – make your own, i do!
**chile powder amount – i used 1 & 1/2 tablespoons in mine, so i think 1/2 tablespoon of very hot chili powder will be perfect for the average ‘too-hot’. of course you could forgo it all together and this would still be a damn tasty chutney, but that’s no fun, is it?