It all started with a peach. I have a neighbor, Bustami, who has the most beautiful and plentiful peach tree I have ever seen.
While walking my dog on our suburban street in Vista, he and I started talking about gardening, but most of all, fruit.
I lived in Upstate New York for 30 years and worked for the Cornell University Master Gardener Program, so I learned a lot about growing vegetables, fruit and berries while visiting Outdoor Cornell Farm Lab.
I said to Bustami, as we chatted about gardening, “In the four years since I have lived in North County, I have never had a good peach.”
“Well then, you have to taste mine,” he replied in neighborly fashion.
“It all depends on the sun, the soil and some good fertilizer.”
Born in Jakarta, Bustami has traveled the world as a professional car designer. Both of his parents have come to join him on his small, but productive, backyard farm in Vista.
Bustami’s mother, Latima, was born in Singapore and brings with her years and years of Southeast Asian and East Indian recipes and fresh garden produce to please her guests at a weekly potluck.
I have found that neighborhood potluck dinners are becoming a thing of the past, and I thank Latima and her family for hosting them.
The food, as well as the guests, is always ethnically diverse, with many different types of rice, vegetable and chicken dishes. so I set out to learn about chutney as an accompaniment to these exotic dinners.
WHAT IS CHUTNEY?
According to thespruceeats.com, “the term chutney comes from the East Indian chatni, meaning ‘strongly spiced.’
“Chutneys have a fruit base, but many non-sweet vegetables can also be used. Once you get the basic concept down, you can experiment with any number of fruits or vegetables.
“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of possible combinations to make this tasty condiment.
“The most common flavors in chutney are ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, raisin, mango, tamarind, citrus fruit, apricot, peach, coriander, mint, onion, and garlic.
“But those aren’t the only options; there are plenty of innovative takes on chutney that use pineapple, coconut, rose hips, pumpkin, quince, plums, or carrots.
“Making your own chutney is an easy process, and it begins with selecting the fruit. Use firm-fleshed, under-ripe fruits such as green mangos, bananas, peaches, apples, nectarines, and apricots. Rhubarb and firm or under-ripe tomatoes are also good candidates.
“Dried fruits work particularly well in chutneys since they retain their texture yet contribute a tart flavor offset by the sugar and spices.
“Avoid soft fruits with delicate flavors such as raspberries and strawberries because they will cook down into more of a smooth jam and lose their flavor.”
CREATE YOUR OWN CHUTNEY RECIPE
After searching the internet, I finally found a tried and true recipe in “The New York Times International Cookbook,” by Craig Claiborne. I adapted it a bit using Granny Smith apples as a starter.
The recipe can be served immediately if quickly cooked (½ hour) or cooked down to make a thicker, darker version.
I added Asian sweet sauce, since I was low on sugar, and it was a great substitute. Add your favorite hot sauce, only at the end, to taste.
JANO’S RECIPE FOR PEACH CHUTNEY
1. 5 large peaches
2. 3 Granny Smith apples (peeled and diced)
3. 2 Tb. butter
4. 1 tsp. cinnamon and ground cloves
5. 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
6. 1 Tb. Asian sweet sauce (pad thai or sweet and sour sauce)
7. 2 Tb. brown sugar or honey
8. 1 Tb soy sauce
9. 1 Tb. balsamic vinegar
10. Hot sauce to taste
Boil 4 cups water in heavy saucepan. Add whole peaches, cook on simmer for 5-10 minutes until skin peels easily. Drain from pot and gently peel each peach. Slice and chop into 1-inch pieces.
In a deep-frying pan, melt 2 Tb. butter, add apples. Sauté for five minutes or until brown. Add cinnamon, curry powder, fresh ginger and cloves.
Add diced peaches and cook with a few tablespoons of peach water. Add vinegar, sugar and sweet sauce. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for doneness. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator.
This recipe can be made with any stone fruit that is in season. Add your personal favorite and enjoy! All chutneys can be kept in refrigerator in Ball jars for over a week, or process as you would jam.
Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and teaches gardening at the Carlsbad Senior Center. Contact her at [email protected].