In a Chutney with Apricots

It's been raining apricots around here. Literally, so. It's a hazard to walk into some of my neighbors' yards. Or it might just be me that those trees are aiming for, as I have been the target of many an apricot in free fall.

Organic apricots
Organic apricots from my neighbor's tree

These aren't your regular supermarket apricots. They are much smaller, less than two inches in diameter, and very sweet. When firm, they are quite tart and ripen quickly to near-mush, if not eaten immediately. I picked slightly firm apricots from the stash that was given to me and roasted them, strawberry-style. While that was tasty, roasted apricots weren't as popular with my family as balsamic roasted strawberries always are. I should have tried one of Suvir's suggestions at Culinary India: add a smidge of black pepper or hot green chiles to bring out the natural sweetness of a fruit. He recommends trying it while making roasted strawberries, to cut down on the amount of sugar one would normally add to sweeten them.

Apart from tearing the fruit apart and feasting on the ripe apricots, I made apricot chicken with a batch that I picked from my neighbor's tree. It's not your usual chicken curry and is sweet, sour and spicy, all at the same time. That set the tone for what I wanted to do with yet another batch of apricots that were delivered to my doorstep by another neighbor. Something spicy. A jelly or a jam would not do; it had to be a chutney of sorts—fruit and sugar cooked down in vinegar to a reduction. Anita's mango relish had triggered memories of gulchaat—green mangoes cooked with jaggery and spices—so I knew that I was going to use jaggery instead of sugar. But I had no recipe!

Jaggery
Jaggery, more flavorful than brown sugar!

I searched anxiously while that big delivery of apricots ripened. I was seriously considering coming up with my own recipe, which would let me add that coveted recipe developer to my resume, when I found this lovely family recipe for apricot chutney from Iwaruna. It appealed to me because I had literally every spice and aromatic used in the recipe, but what made it really attractive was that it gave me the freedom to adapt it to my tastes and include other fruits.

Apricot Chutney


  • 5 lbs apricots, pitted and chopped
  • 4 ripe altaulfo mangos, pitted and diced
  • 2 medium white onions, diced
  • 1.5 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorn
  • 1/2 tbsp whole cloves
  • 2 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 8-10 byadgi or other mild red dried chile, stems discarded and crumbled
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 star anise, broken 
  • 2 two-inch sticks of Indian cinnamon 
  • 1 tbsp red chile powder (optional)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 lb jaggery cubes
  • 1 and 1/3 cup malt vinegar
  • 3 lemons, zest and juice


Spices for apricot chutney
Spices for the chutney

  1. Chop the apricots into small pieces, about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch. 
  2. Put all ingredients—except jaggery, malt vinegar, lemon juice and lemon zest—into a large heavy-bottomed pot.
  3. Add about 1 cup vinegar and heat on medium-high, stirring frequently, until the mixture comes to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium at this point.
  4. Add more vinegar if the fruits start sticking to the bottom of the pot or if it becomes too dry or thick. 
  5. Stir occasionally and lower heat even further to maintain a gentle simmer. 
  6. After an hour of simmering, stir in lemon zest and lemon juice. 
  7. Stir in the 3/4ths of the jaggery and continue to simmer for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. After making sure that all the jaggery has dissolved, take it off the heat and keep overnight. Once cool, store overnight in a refrigerator. 
  9. The next day, heat the chutney on medium high heat until it simmers, and then lower the temperature to to maintain a gentle simmer. Add any additional vinegar and/or sugar and/or red chile powder to desired taste and viscosity. Cook for an hour, allowing all the flavors to meld. 
  10. While the chutney is simmering, get your water canner ready with boiling water. Make sure your jars are hot and ready for the chutney, and the lids are sitting in hot water. 
  11. Fill the jars leaving about 1/4in headspace. Remove air bubbles by running a chopstick through the chutney. Clean the lip of the jars and adjust the lids and bands appropriately.
  12. Process using boiling-water method for at least 10 minutes, making necessary altitude adjustments (pdf file, see pg2). This gave me six 8oz jars and four 4oz jars. There was more but...
  13. Allow to cool, and then test every jar for a tight seal. Store in a cool place and serve at least 2 to 3 months after being made. Or if you're like and cannot wait, do not process one jar and store it in the refrigerator for immediate use.

Spicy apricot chutney
Ta-da! Apricot chutney!

When I was satisfied with the final taste, I gave some to Medha for a taste test. She said, Whoa! That was an explosion of flavors in my mouth! And, she's right. Everyone I have shared this with has told me that they love it. Well, I'm kind of in love with it, too!

We like it best on crackers but it goes very well with bagels and cream-cheese. It is great with grilled fish. The blogger at Iwaruna notes that it can be thinned out to use as a basting sauce, or as an ingredient in a marinade. She recommends removing the whole spices before eating but we like the taste of peppercorns and cloves and munch right through them.

If you are blessed with an abundant crop of apricots, and you like the idea of spicy chutney more than a sweet jam or jelly, this explosion of flavors is for you!

But if you aren't as lucky as I was, you could use store-bought apricots or substitute with peaches, figs, dates, and fresh currants. But don't ignore this recipe for peaches are coming soon!

Notes:
  • I used a total of 1 and 1/3 cup malt vinegar. You can substitute with apple cider vinegar, if you like. Always add about 3/4ths the total amount of vinegar and taste before adding more. Apricots aren't consistent in their tartness or sweetness. Adjust the vinegar to your taste. The original recipe had 2 cups of vinegar for 5 lbs of fruit.
  • The same holds for jaggery. Or brown sugar, if that is what you prefer to use.
  • I added another 2 teaspoons of red chile powder the next day as I wanted my chutney to pack a memorable punch. 
  • Since I wanted the flavors to be predominantly Indian, I omitted allspice.
  • When you're done canning, don't throw the water down the drain. Let it cool and then water your indoor plants as well as those in containers outdoors.

14 comments:

Soma said...

A very different way to make chutney. And the onion is totally new to me in this kinda chutney. Looks so fab. and I think I could just dip my finger and lick on this all day :)

Tina said...

its new to me...sounds yummy.

Namitha said...

I second Medha, it's an explosion of flavors..sweet,tangy,hot,spicy and yumm :) Now I know how you made it

Nagalakshmi V said...

what a sweet problem to have and to turn around to spicy :)

Indu said...

Looks so flavourful..And love the sound of the apricot chicken, will be sharing the recipe with my dad who loves to cook such things (and hopefully, I will get to eat it as well)

anna in spain said...

We have neither ataulfo mangoes nor malt vinegar here, but that may not stop me from adapting this recipe for my own use!! I imagine the mangoes are tart in flavour? Hmmm....a new experiment to play with...

Anita said...

That is a bright chutney with so many spices! We have mangoes and peaches and plums are beginning to show as well.
I have some green mangoes that turned out to not be too tart - this recipe would lend itself well to using those. As if, I need more preserves!

evolvingtastes said...

Niloufer's fruit chutneys are foolproof and delicious to boot! I have made many of them, and posted about it too. Never had a disappointment with her basic formulas.

Turmeric n Spice said...

Lovely ,, love the colors and the recipe

Poornima Nair said...

The recipe just looks wonderful, love the flavors!

anna in spain said...

Another winning recipe, Manisha! I would never have thought of putting black peppercorns in apricot chutney but it certainly works! (As long as you don't crunch straight into one!) I made this in the crockpot so I wouldn't have to stand over it. It turned darker in colour than I expected, probably because of the long slow simmering, but that's OK. I forgot to put the onion in but it worked anyway.
I used a pound of apricots and since we don't have mangoes, a few red plums. When it had chilled overnight I tasted it on my toast and it was a real wake-up call!

myweekendkitchen said...

Hello!

Your recipes look yum! And this chutney is definitely on my to-do list since apricots are now in season! :)

I have nominated your blog for the ‘Very Inspiring Blogger’ award. http://wp.me/p1a482-8W
Do look at the rules! Congratulations and Take Care!

Cheers,
Ashima

Ashley said...

I just came across your blog today, and it's lovely! Indian food DOES rock :)

Raaga said...

One day I shall move on from my thuvayal/pachadi making and try different things :-)