Doni’s Million-Dollar Chutney

chutney-mil-dollar

My tale of million-dollar chutney begins with a basket of free figs, a gift from Don and Elaine Cohen. Wonderful figs, which we halved and drizzled with honey from my little sister’s beehives.

But one can only eat so many figs, not to mention that fresh figs ripen like that. (Snap.)

And I’m loathe to waste any food, especially a gift of food.

I decided to make fig jam. Easy weaver.

I grabbed a small pot in which I heated a simple syrup (half sugar/half water – uh, hummingbird food), and added the quartered Cohen figs, with the zest and juice of one lemon.

I simmered it for about 1 hour.

It looked pretty.

It also looked – lacking.

I rummaged around in the refrigerator and extracted a bowl of leftover apricots from a No. 10 can Kelly and I opened to make a few dozen apricot tarts in puff pastry for a fundraiser.

Apricots, meet figs – figs, meet apricots. They hit it off. Their union produced fig and apricot jam.

It seemed a good idea. At first. But the apricots looked like orange polka dots in a sea of specks.

I rummaged in the fridge again and salvaged some tired, wet, translucent strawberries that remained from the mascarpone/whipped cream profiteroles Kelly and I made for the same fundraiser.

The strawberries were a definite help. They added a slight blush to the jam, and the little seeds looked like kissing cousins to the fig seeds.

I’d gone too far. What had I created?

Fig, Apricot, Strawberry Jam.

Ugh. Ick.

I departed the realm of sweet, overly fruited jam.

I entered the realm of savory chutney.

I finely chopped onions which I sauteed in olive oil on low, low, low until they caramelized.

What are onions without garlic?

Incomplete.

Must correct, immediately.

Peel a head of garlic. Mash the cloves with salt until they resemble apple sauce.

I added the pale, creamed garlic to the onions and sauteed the mixture a bit longer. Things were getting crowded in that pan, so I scraped everything, including the onions and garlic, into my favorite stainless steel medium pot, the one I use for lemon curd and ice cream custard, among other things.

Blop.

Much better. More head room to add more stuff.

Peppercorns, freshly cracked. Couple of bay leaves. Pepper flakes.

Ooh. Hot was good. Chipotles, cayenne, cumin seed, half a bottle of horseradish.

Eeek. Too much heat. Need cool, stat.

More apricots. Hey, where are those dried cherries? They’ll plump in the moisture. Perfecto, if I do say so myself.

Needed a little pop – needed a little – something.

Cognac. Quarter of one bottle should do it.

Suddenly it was all brown. The cherries were lost.

Disappointed? Yes.

Defeated? Absolutely not.

I rolled up my sleeves. Into the pantry I went.

Out came cans, jars, containers.

More honey. Whole fennel seed. A Mendocino mustard I’d saved for a special occasion. Now we’re cooking with gas.

Brown sugar. Canned mango. Dried mango. Mango juice. Love mango.

More garlic. Salt, salt, salt.

Gloppy, sloppy.

Chunks and hunks of floating matter. Oh my gosh. And the pot was nearly overflowing.

I placed my biggest pot in the sink and carefully carried over the hot chutney and poured it into the bigger container. Better. Much.

I dug out Mr. Hand Blender, my smooth operator. (Just saw one at Grocery Outlet recently. Cheap.)

Whirl, whirl, whirl.

Don’t overdo it. Leave some small hunks for color. Good idea.

So pretty. Delicious.

I adjusted the seasonings, and tried a trick I’d learned when food needs a little pick me up (no, not tiramisu, not this time): Vinegar. I like rice vinegar, so that’s what I used. A little bit … just enough so I could barely, barely taste it, but not enough that it might scream VINEGAR.

Some freshly ground pepper. Some more salt. And, OK, in the spirit of full disclosure, I also added some Smokey Tabasco Sauce.

I’d reached chutney nirvana.

I had four cases of half-pint jars I’d bought for about $10 a pop. Ouchie wawa, I should have been watching for yard sales. Oh well. No chips, guaranteed.

I poured the chutney in my biggest green bowl. I know, it looks unappetizing here, but the flash messed with the color. Trust me. It’s good.

chutney-perfect-bowl

I then ladeled it into the clean, hot jars, that I’d just removed from the dishwasher. (A mother-in-law’s trick.) chutney-pretty

I processed the jars in boiling water just like the pros do it, then found more empty jars and some new lids and rings, because I had more chutney than could fit in my new jars.

That’s fine with me. Money in the bank.

Doni’s Million-Dollar Chutney.

Don’t ask me for the recipe.

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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13 Responses

  1. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    'Struth. The best chutney I ever made was from suddenly looking at the fruit in the vegetable crisper and realizing that there was no way I could ever eat all of it before it spoiled… pineapple, peaches, here's an apple, throw in vinegar, onions, some spice mix left over from a Thai chicken recipe…add add add stir stir stir.. it was fabulous. AND you feel pretty virtuous because you didn't waste anything.

  2. Avatar Iris Sanders says:

    I made fig jam also and thought I'd share. I made a batch from our fig trees, but I wanted more jam. I really love figs, so I put in an ad in the East Valley Times. A lovely man called and said please come pick as many as you'd like. So, my husband, James, and myself took our eight foot picking ladder and our leftover horse wormer buckets; they are perfect picking buckets, and we set off to pick figs. My husband is not a "died in the wool" fruit picker so he tends to whine after about five minutes. That's ok, I just praise him and press on.

    I picked enough for three batches of fig jam plus the batch I'd already made. I found a basic fig jam recipe on the internet and ad libbed from there. I made three different recipes.

    I started with two quarts of fresh chopped figs for each batch and experimented from there. In the first batch, I added a cup of raisins, a cup of chopped toasted pecans, 3/4 cup of lemon juice and a tablespoon of vanilla at the end. The second batch I added chopped toasted almonds plus raisins, but forgot the vanilla. The third batch I added prune pulp to the recipe, pecans, raisins, lemon juice and vanilla. I didn't care so much for the chopped almonds,I would par boil them first and then toast them, they didn't soften enough in the cooking process.

    I had fun and the jam is really wonderful.

  3. Andrea Charroin Andrea Charroin says:

    I have a story just like that Doni! I made my favorite cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving one year and grabbed the ground white pepper instead of the ground ginger. Turns out the ground white pepper was just what I needed to help make the tastiest cranberry chutney. Yeah for accidents!

  4. Avatar Chris Bennor says:

    Oh my gosh, Doni. Reading the chronology of your chutney making was like watching my 6-year old "experiment" at home. He'll start with his dessert and start adding stuff here and there to perfect it – leftover this and that from the fridge, things he pulled from the drawers, etc. I'm working on other things and next thing I know, he comes up to me with a bowl of, well, not chutney, and wants me to taste it.

    Sometimes I do, sometimes I do not. Because I do not want to go to the hospital from food poisoning.

    I've thrown away more cups and bowls filled with his stuff because I was unable or unwilling to wash them.

    But I have hope after reading this – maybe someday it'll click and I'll have another master chef in the family. But in the meantime? Eek.

    • Doni Greenberg Doni Greenberg says:

      Oh, Chris, it's good to hear from you.

      The first thing that came to mind as you shared your story is Harrison must be a chip off the old Buck, a budding chef like his beloved dad. What a great legacy he left for us all.

      By the way, did you you get enough folks with pickups to help you move your belongings from Igo to Lewiston? Don't be bashful about asking for help. anewscafe.com is your go-to community place. 🙂

      • Avatar Chris Bennor says:

        Early Sunday morning, I met up with my sister, Val, and good friend, Sonya, and we ran up and down those stairs for a few hours moving boxes.

        Then my friends, Heidi and Steph (who generously took time off from their business, Trinity River Adventure Inn), came down with a truck and trailer and loaded all our personal stuff and unloaded it in the garage on Sunday. I was out of there by 12:30 p.m., whew!!

        Thank you….

  5. Avatar Cherry Mudford says:

    Having just been blessed with a jar, I couldn't wait until I actually had something to eat it on, and Wow, it is delicious. Lunch today…Turkey sandwich with Million-Dollar Chutney.. tonight? I'll think of something.

    • Doni Greenberg Doni Greenberg says:

      Cherry, so glad you like it. I later realized – remembered – that Mr. Mudford isn't a fan of onion and garlic. Darn. I guess it's all for you. 😉 (p.s. It's great on chicken and steak.)

  6. Avatar Joy Yoshioka says:

    My mouth was watering every step tasting each ingredient. Wow, a labor of love and sounds scrumptious. The experiments are the most fun and yes, it's a million dollar chutney because you cannot find it anywhere on earth.. hmm, does that mean it's priceless ?

    Good work :>
    Joy

  7. Avatar Janice Powell says:

    They used to serve a really good Chutney at CR Gibbs….do you know of any other local restaurants that serve this delicious type of sauce?

    And BTW… I can't seem to find that great restaurant review (the anonymous french chef) that you featured on anewscafe.com in the past….where's it located on your site?

    • Doni Greenberg Doni Greenberg says:

      Janice, I don't know of any restaurants that serve your specific chutney in question. (Readers? Restaurant owners?)

      And regarding that (incredibly well-written) anonymous restaurant reviewer's blog, "MenuPlease" – stayed tuned. Soon we'll feature those articles and reviews in the Food section. Until then, go to the Bloggers section on anewscafe, then look for MenuPlease. Bear in mind that the blogs rotate in chronological order. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  8. Avatar Seyna Bruskin says:

    Mmmmmmm. How do I get some out here in Binghamton, NY??? I am a fig lover — I have imported fig jam in my fridge, and when I traveled around Greece and Europe years ago, I always had a strong of Calmyrna figs around my wrist. Not being a cook or canner, and not having such easy access to fresh, luscious fruits I feel bereft! Any chance of a purchase?

    Thanks, even for the teaser.

    • Doni Greenberg Doni Greenberg says:

      Seyna, just because I'm so thrilled to hear that a Binghampton, NY, reader is checking out anewscafe.com in Northern California, just this once I will send a jar of my chutney as a gift. (Just email me your mailing address to anewscafe@gmail.com.)

      Welcome to anewscafe.com. Thanks for reading!