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Jessica’s Garden: Giving Chutney a Chance

Persimmon Close Up
Persimmon Close Up

I think that Summer time is mistakenly labeled the time of year when fresh produce and vegetable gardening are at their best. Understandably, the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables available during the Summer months is outstanding. Who can forget a tomato fresh picked from the vine and sprinkled with a little salt; still warm from the sun. After the tomato season I just endured, like I knew I would, I miss it already. However that being said, there is also a wide selection of garden edibles available now. To name only a few– Fall and Winter squash, pumpkins, apples, pears, grapes, quince, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions, leeks, carrots and parsnips.

About two weeks ago, my mother and I spotted a wild persimmon (not on private property) and have been watching it carefully. Just a few days ago, the road was splattered with over-ripe and fallen fruit. Prepared with buckets in hand and rain boots on, as of course it had to be pouring with rain, we pulled the car over and threw our shame and dignity out the window. Hopping around as quickly and gracefully as possible as rush hour traffic whizzed by staring, we managed to collect enough persimmons to fill a large kitchen bowl.

Bowlful of Persimmons
Bowlful of Persimmons

I do not have any prior experience with persimmons other than this side-of-the-road adventure. Under-ripe, this beautiful little fruit will make you pucker and suck every ounce of water out of every single cell in your body; however, ripe and over-ripe, they are sweet and reminded me very much of a ripe apricot in flavor and consistency. I read up on canning persimmons and the general consensus appeared to be that their acidity was unsafe for traditional canning and was much more appropriate for making freezer jam.

Chutney Spices and Ingredients
Chutney Spices and Ingredients

Persimmons, like pears, will ripen off the tree. So after a couple days on the counter, I made persimmon freezer jam spiced with Chinese Five Spice.

I have never made freezer jam for fear of using up precious freezer space. But with no other apparent choice I took a chance. And now I know why people make freezer jam.

The whole process from fruit preparation to canning in jars was less than 30 minutes; it doesn’t get much better than that. Admittedly, the persimmon jam is not among my favorite jam creations.

It ended up still having a little puckering effect which I suspect is from a couple less ripe persimmons making it into the mix. But it is quite exotic and I was thinking it could be cut with soy sauce and orange juice for a glaze on grilled chicken; another project for another day.

Quince Ready for Chutney

I also got to work on canning some more quinces that were gifted to me from a client a couple of weeks ago. The next round had begun to yellow and needed attention.

This time, to diversify my canning cupboard bounty I tried a new recipe for Quince Chutney. I have been resisting the urge to taste test as the recipe recommended leaving 1-2 months for flavors to develop. By the holidays, it should be ready for gifting and eating.

I firmly believe that chutneys generally have a bad reputation. I think that people envision a stereotypical and unappealing hard-as-a-rock English fruitcake or something of the like in their minds.

Generally speaking, chutneys are qualified as a mix of fresh fruit with a dried fruit such as raisins, onions and usually malt or cider vinegar. I see how this may be turning some people away, but stick with me. Truthfully, chutneys are my absolute favorite thing to can. I love how they enable the savory to delicately entwine with the sweet side of canning.

We use them regularly as a condiment on cheese and cracker trays or with a Ploughman’s Lunch. My aunt introduced me to her recipe for green tomato chutney a few summers ago. It’s an absolutely delicious and rich concoction that counter-balances sweet with tangy. I have also made fig chutney from my grandparent’s fig tree and pear chutney from a gifting of pears from my sister.

The pear chutney is definitely a great starter chutney for someone who might be tentative about trying it; it tastes just like Christmas in a jar. Most are fantastic paired with a sharp cheese or as a condiment on a leftover roast meat sandwich. I also made a papaya, apple and jalapeno chutney once upon a time that was my least favorite of my chutney creations, but awesome combined with a bottle of BBQ sauce in a crock pot with a pork shoulder for pulled pork. Don’t give up on the harvest season yet, there’s still a lot of garden goodness to be had. Enjoy Fall, as Winter will be here before we know it.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Do you have a recipe for the pear chutney? I found some online, but anything labeled Christmas in a jar has to be good. 🙂

    1. Hi Christine
      Thank you for reading and for your interest. I have really enjoyed the pear chutney that I made last season. I still have a couple jars left in my stock that we are slowly savoring. It’s a little sweet but slightly tangy and savory from the onions; plus all the holiday seasonings- it’s perfect. This is the recipe I used. I ended up making a triple batch to make it worth while taking the time to can. Chutneys are an afternoon project since they take a couple hours but are worth it. I believe I skipped the garlic. Hope you enjoy it!

      Spiced Pear Chutney

      2 cups cider vinegar
      1-1/4 cups packed brown sugar
      3 pounds unpeeled ripe pears, diced
      1 medium onion, copped
      1 cup raisins
      2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
      1 teaspoon ground cloves
      1 garlic clove, minced
      1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (your taste)

      In a large saucepan bring vinegar and brown sugar to a gentle boil. Add remaining ingredients and summer 2- 2 1/2 hours until it’s cooked down and reached desired consistency.

      Ladle into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/4″ head space. Screw on lids and bands. Process for 15 mins in hot water bath. Let cool 24 hours before moving. All jars should seal.

      Recipe adapted from http://www.chow.com

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