It sure doesn’t look like the first day of Spring. With the rain today, I worry that the apricot tree won’t set fruit this year. The vast majority of the blossoms are over, and most of the leaves have come out. That was fast; but then again, the blooming and fruiting periods of Blenheims are brief. In a few weeks I’ll be looking for evidence of fruit development (fingers crossed).
Since apricots and Spring are on my mind, I thought I’d post our apricot chutney recipe. Last year around this time, we gave a copy of this (along with a jar of the product 8-)) to our friends Samuel and Elizabeth, in celebration of their marriage. Today they’re having their annual Spring Ding party, which I’m sad to miss. So to them I raise a long distance toast —or, rather, a toast topped with cheese and chutney!
The original basis for this was a recipe from my mother-in-law, Ruth Fraser. We confess to changing the spices and accessory fruits (like the figs) from year to year. Experiment with different chilies, cardamom (and other Far, Near or South Eastern Asian spices), prunes, dates, etc. We use fresh Blenheim apricots and Meyer lemons because they grow in our backyard. We haven’t tried dried apricots, but if you do, let us know how it turns out. The variations are fun to play with!
Update (25 August 2013): To answer Mark’s question from over two years ago—yikes! but it’s taken me this long to try it out—I finally tested putting the spices (except for small bits like the ginger and mustard, which are easy to chew after cooking anyhow) in a cotton bag. Oh boy, now I no longer need to carefully pick out hard pieces on my sandwiches. Although I have to be more careful when stirring, so I don’t accidentally tear the bag. Another aside: This recipe works great with pluots, especially when adding a bit (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon) of aniseed (whole, but not placed in the spice bag, as they’re small). I think this would work well with good plums, too.
Serving suggestions: On toast, with cheese, poultry or coldcut meats. Excellent as part of a basting sauce (if thinned out with water or wine) or dip, or an ingredient for a curry like condiment, relish or marinade. Since the whole spices (cloves, peppercorns, etc.) don’t break down, you should remove them before munching.
The amount of vinegar and brown sugar might vary, depending on the tartness and sweetness of the apricots. If in doubt, taste! Also, depending on the juiciness of the fruits used, as well as, again, the amount of vinegar and sugar, the resulting volume of chutney will vary. As an example from a batch from 2005, we ended up with 6 pints, spread amongst 6 8-ounce jars and 4 12-ounce jars. (We have a weird mix of canning jars around.)
The jars keep for a long time in a cool closet. We have enjoyed four year old chutney. It does age quite well, although make sure that the lids haven’t popped, to maintain the air-tight seal. Remember to refrigerate after opening a jar.
Fruits & alliums
- 4 pounds fresh apricots, pitted and chopped (no more than 1/2 inch thick)
- 2 large yellow onions, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- (optional) 4 ounces dried figs, finely diced
- (optional) 4 ounces dates, pitted and finely diced
- 7 ounces golden raisins, or sultanas; you could substitute regular dark raisins.
- 3 inches ginger root, peeled and grated
- 2 1/2 sticks of cinnamon —the softstick variety from Sri Lanka (Ceylon) has a sweet, fruity edge; it can be found at Mexican stores.
- 2 tablespoons black mustard seed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 5 dried Serrano chiles, crumbled, including seeds but omitting any stems
- (optional) 1 star anise, broken; warning this imparts a strong licorice flavor!
Sour & sweet
- 2 cups malt vinegar
- 12 ounces dark brown sugar
- 3 lemons, both zest and juice
- Put all of the fruits, except for the raisins, onions, garlic and spices into a large stock pot with a heavy bottom. Turn the heat onto medium high. Pour in enough malt vinegar so that the mixture won’t stick as you bring it to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium once you obtain a lively simmer.
- Add more malt vinegar as the mixture simmers, to prevent it from becoming dry or too stiff. You want to get a jam-like consistency. At this point, most (~75%) of the vinegar is usually used. Continue to stir occasionally to avoid sticking, and lower the temperature to medium low or low. Maintain a gentle simmer.
- After about 1 hour, stir in the raisins, lemon zest and lemon juice.
- Stir in the brown sugar when the apricots have become pulpy, i.e., fallen apart so there are few if any solid lumps. This usually occurs about 30 minutes after adding the raisins and lemon ingredients. At this point, most (~75%) of the sugar is usually used.
- Simmer, with occasional stirring, for another 45 minutes. The sugar should be completely dissolved and the chutney have a thick jammy consistency. Turn off of the heat, and set aside overnight. On the stovetop is fine, as the acid and sugar ought to be enough to deter the growth of unwanted flora. (Alternatively, store in the refrigerator overnight.)
- The next day, bring the chutney to a simmer over medium high heat, then lower the temperature to medium low or low to maintain a gentle simmer. Add any additional vinegar and/or sugar to desired taste and viscosity. Cook for 1 hour.
- Make sure you have clean jars and caps handy. Ladle the hot chutney into the jars, quickly cap them, then process appropriately.
- As mentioned earlier, store in a cool location like a closet or larder. This chutney is best served at least 2 to 3 months after being made.