Here's the Wisegeek.com definition of chutney:
Chutney is similar in consistency to jelly, salsa or relish and is used as a sweet and sour condiment. Usually made fresh, chutney contains fruit and sugar to give it a sweet taste, and almost all chutney contains vinegar and perhaps onions to give it a corresponding sour flavor. The ingredients are mixed together and then simmered slowly. While chutney is primarily sweet and sour, there can also be many variations of spices, often giving it a hot and spicy flavor.
This definition pretty much sums ups chutney nicely.
I have made chutney from so many different fruits. Sure, I've used mangoes, to try to duplicate the first commercially-made chutney I ever tasted, but there are plenty of local fruits that work well. Let's not forget the REALLY local fruit that is one of my favorites: rhubarb. I bet you know someone with rhubarb growing in their yard. If you're lucky, they don't mind sharing. If you're REALLY lucky, that person with the rhubarb in their yard is you! Other fruits that make a fabulous foundation for your chutney, just to mention a few: apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, and cranberries and green tomatoes.
The beautiful beginnings of Rainier Cherry Chutney.
Chutney is incredibly versatile, and a welcome accompaniment in any season. For many people, their first experience with chuntey is the mango variety, like Major Grey's. In fact, the first time I was served Major Grey's Chutney with a curry dish was the same moment that I became addicted to the stuff. I loved the way the sweet~tart yet slightly savory sauce was the perfect companion for my plate of spicy hot curry. So many flavors all at once! Besides eating it with curry, chutney:
- makes a great condiment for roasted and grilled meats & poultry.
- is wonderful with seafood, especially shrimp curry, of course.
- can be used during the cooking process, as a glaze. On pork tenderloin, for instance.
- in a small dish, on a cheese plate can take your cheese & crackers to a whole 'nother level.
- can perk up a sandwich like nobody's business.
I've been known to stir a spoonful into a curried chicken salad with very tasty results. (No, I didn't invent that idea, but it still catches people by surprise now and then when I tell them that "secret ingredient" is what makes my salad so good.)
Another reason to start making your own chutney? It's easy. You basically chop up a few things, gathering up whatever you have in the pantry, mix it up in a heavy-bottomed pan, to prevent the chutney from sticking, and then cook it until it is a jam-like consistency. You can pretty much customize it to your own liking. Most chutney recipes call for fruit, vinegar, and some type of sweetener, like brown sugar. Add onions, and maybe some garlic, and various herbs (like mint) plus assorted spices, (like mustard seed, cloves and coriander). Dried fruit is a nice addition, such as dates &/or raisins, as is crystalized ginger.
Preserving your chutney in jars is easy, and is the perfect way to have one of the world's best condiments always in your pantry!