Kick Up the Holiday Meal with Fermented Chutney

by Chef Molly Beverly

Chutney is a traditional style of Indian condiment that has been adopted, adapted and modified worldwide.

Traditionally it's sweet and sour, hot and spicy, and a mixture of flavors you don't usually find together — think onions, celery, ginger, cinnamon, honey and figs — for discordant harmony. The recipe below is fermented with lactobacillus bacteria, the same as found in yogurt. The result is an exciting and comforting holiday taste, a complement to the big meal and a delightful gift, good with the turkey, in a turkey-chutney sandwich, or over ice vanilla cream.

During fermentation the lactobacillus bacteria mellow, blend and enrich flavors. Lactobacilli are beneficial bacteria living in us, on us and all around us, an essential part of the human microbiome. They fight pathogens (the bad guys), boost our immune systems and enhance our sense of wellbeing.

Here's what you need to know about fermentation.

Allow a week for full development of this chutney. The longer it sits, the more lactic acid is produced and the more interesting the flavor. Part of this recipe is to taste the mix once a day, decide when it tastes perfect to you, then stop the fermentation by refrigerating the jars.

For the lactobacillus starter you'll need a small container of plain, unsweetened yogurt. Let it sit out for a day or two till it separates into solid and liquid phases. The liquid is whey. You’ll need 1/3 cup of the whey for the recipe. Before you add the whey to the chutney, make sure the temperature is below 135 degrees, ideally 100 degrees or skin temperature. Colder is okay, but hotter will kill the bacteria. We're talking live cultures here.

Any clean glass jars will do. Just make sure the lids have no rust or deterioration. When fermenting, cover the jars lightly so gases can escape. When the flavor suits your taste, tighten the lids and refrigerate.

Live Cultured Apple Cranberry Chutney

4 clean eight-ounce (pint) jars with lids

1/3 cup whey from plain yogurt (as described above)

1 pound cranberries, fresh or frozen

1 1/2 cup peeled and chopped tart apple

1 1/3 cup yellow raisins

1 1/3 cup pitted dates or figs, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons honey

1 cup onion, 1/2 inch chop

1 cup celery, 1/4-inch chop

1 1/3 cup water

3/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Combine all ingredients except the whey in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to low heat and gently simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until the ingredients are soft and still juicy. Stir regularly. Makes 4 pints.

Chef Molly Beverly is Prescott's creative food activist and teacher. Photos by Gary Beverly.

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