Plums are an economical, plentiful and healthy fruit in the late summer. But what do you cook with them? I become intrigued with a cookbook which dedicated an entire chapter to plum recipes–providing lots of ideas. My kind of cookbook. Here is “Malinda’s Plum and Apple Chutney”. The recipe includes plums, apples, onions and Indian spices. Wow, it was delicious.
What is chutney? Chutney is a spicy relish which originated in India. Otherwise the definition applies to a broad range of ingredients and preparation methods. Chutney can be made with fruits or vegetables or a combination. It can be spicy or aromatic. My mother canned a green tomato and apple relish which we called chutney when I was a child. Chutneys are often cooked down to a thick sauce on the stove. The spiciness seems to differentiate “chutney” from “relish”. Here is my Spicy Plum and Apple Chutney.
Peaches, plums, pears, apples and mangoes all make excellent chutney. They compliment spicy Indian flavors such as cinnamon, ginger, all spice and cloves. I associate chutney with chunky pieces of fruit and vegetables. My plum chutney, however, cooked down to a pulp more like a sauce. I tried my best to get a few chunks of apples and onions into the chutney.
Recipe from the Mennonite farm area of Ontario,Canada
This recipe for chutney is from one of Edna Staebler’s Cookbooks, “Schmecks Appeal: More Mennonite Country Cooking”, published in 1987. More about Edna and her recipes in another post. Edna.Staebler is from the Mennonite farm land of Ontario, Canada, just north of Lake Ontario. This breezy lake provides a perfect climate for fruit orchards. And look, Edna has a canoe!
As the cookbook author points out, these Mennonite farmers are self-sufficient operations with orchards, dairy cows, poultry, large gardens and fields of grain to feed their herds of livestock. When these farmers preserved their fruits and vegetables in the fall, they didn’t can just a little bit; they canned bushels of produce.
Here is a sample of New York plums at a farm house road-side produce stand last year. These orchards are just across Lake Ontario from the Mennonite farms.
As with this recipe and many home canning recipes, the quantities called for are large. It is an all day operation to preserve bushels of produce. I reduced to one-fourth the quantities listed in the recipe so I could home process a reasonable amount in an afternoon cooking session. But for purposes of clarity, I’m listing the original recipe quantities.
Fun with a meat grinder
The plum and apple chutney recipe contained lots and lots of plums, apples and onions. Using a food processor to chop the apples and onions results in uneven sized bites or foods which pureed, mushy and watery. Chopping large amounts of ingredients by hand is tedious. A food grinder is really the best tool for chopping the apples and onions.My food grinder was broken, so I went shopping. I was surprised to find that our neighborhood upscale hardware store stocked food grinders. These were very large meat grinders but the clerk assured me that they could chop vegetables, too. Wrong. The apples turned out pureed or not chopped at all. Eventually I realized that these grinders were being sold to deer hunters to process their venison into ground meat. Now I had a useless industrial-grade meat grinder but quickly found a hunter who was glad to take it.
Here’s the old meat grinder from my childhood home. As you can see in the above photos, the grinders have different sizes of die-cast holes allowing you to grind several consistencies.This grinder saw many years of work, but with a broken piece it is useless. I should throw it away.
Here’s my brother’s food grinder and he’s processing our mother’s green tomato and apple chutney recently. He lives in Boston. It appears that he ended up with the better food grinder.
Cooking the Plum and Apple Chutney
The chutney is spicy, sweet and sour. It contains vinegar and brown sugar. The Indian-type spices used in the recipe are ginger, cloves, all spice and cayenne pepper. All the ingredients are added to the plum pulp, apples and onions in a large pot on the stove.
They are cooked down to a thick pulp.This pulp is ladled into sterile canning jars and processed in a water bath on the stove.
Here are some of the gadgets I use in home canning. Several of my past blogs on canning pepper jelly and pickles show the entire process.
If all the jars and equipment are sterilized and processed correctly, the chutney will last for a year on the shelf.
Now I’ve got a spicy plum and apple chutney. A new way to use healthy and naturally sweet plums. The chutney can be used as a spread on sandwiches and crackers, served as an accompaniment to chicken, pork, rice, served as a sauce on yogurt or oatmeal. Or it makes a novel a gift. It’s very good — thanks Edna!
When I made this chutney I reduced the ingredients to 1/4 the quantities listed. For clarity, I’m giving the original recipe.
Malinda says if you don’t have enough plums, you can use more apples to make this spicy relish, which is so good with cold meats.
- 2 1/2 quarts plums
- 8 apples
- 3 large onions, chopped
- 1 Tbsp ginger
- 1 Tbsp cloves
- 1 Tbsp allspice or cinnamon
- 2 tsp salt
- 8 cups brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 cups cider vinegar
Method and Steps:
- Cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Core the apples and cut them into quarters.
- Put plums and apples in a kettle. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring constantly, untll sauce thickens.
- If you want a very smooth chutney, you can puree it or put the whole bit through a colander. But why bother?
- Spoon into sterilized jars.
Note: I reduce the quantities to one-fourth and chop the apples and onions through a food grinder before placing on the stove.
Source: “Malinda’s Plum and Apple Chutney” in Plums Chapter. p. 231 Staebler, Edna. “Schmecks Appeal: More Mennonite Country Cooking” McClelland and Steward: Toronto, Canada. Copyright ©1987