After my first attempt at canning, I was a bit hesitant to give it a go again. It’s not only a lot of work, but the fact that my kitchen was almost engulfed in flames my first go round really made me reconsider my dreams of being a preserver. That was until I saw gleaming heaps of cherries on discount at my market. I just knew I had to preserve some since they’re one of my favorite fruits of the season; a season that is sadly so short lived.
Bring my haul home, I decided to skip the jam, and give a good chutney a go. Chutneys seem to confuse most people I talk to. What is it? What do you do with it, they ask. Chutney is a delectable combination of fruit, vinegar, and sugar, which is cooked with spices, onions, garlic, and peppers. With complex flavors, they traditionally accompany curried dishes, but chutney is also great with cheese trays and many other savory foods.
I smartly invited a friend over, and we got to work deseeding 10 cups of cherries, popping a few in our mouths along the way. This recipe takes some time when it comes to preparation. Beyond the cherries, there is the copping of an onion, two apples, and some garlic. It’s best to enlist help with the promise of a jar to take home, trust me.
I have to say that making the chutney was fairly easy. The majority of the work was in the preparation and just making sure to frequently stir the mixture so it didn’t char on the bottom of the pan while it cooked. I was much more confident when it came to the water bath this time, and didn’t even run and hide from my ‘potentially explosive’ jars after I removed them from the big pot.
I wonder if I will ever get to the point where I don’t learn something new each time I can. Maybe one day, but until then, I want to share my observations so we can all learn together.
- It’s not just jams that foam madly! Even my chutney was testing the limits of my pot’s edges, crawling up them with much vigor. I used the old wooden spoon laid across the pot trick to prevent a boil over and remind vigilant.
- Always sanitize more jars than your recipe calls for. This one only needed six jars, but I filled them easily and could have even topped off two more. However, because I only boiled the six jars I needed, I have a bunch of extra chutney with no jar to call home, waiting in my fridge to be used.
- When removing the jars from the water bath, there is no need to tilt them to remove the water that collects on the lid. Because it is so hot, the water will evaporate off immediately. Also, tilting them could prevent them from sealing I found out.
- I’m not sure exactly why it happened, but two of my jars did not seal this time. It could be because of my tilting when removing them from the water bath or maybe there was too much headspace at the top of those jars. Either way, I now have two jars of chutney that weren’t preserved. I could reprocesses them, but that would mean starting from the beginning, reheating the chutney, sanitizing the jars, and doing the water bath. Freezing them seems like the better option. I found out that when you reprocess jars, the food inside might not set right the second time since it is basically being cooked again. Tossing the item into the freezer or using the food immediately is a good solution.
- Bubbles happen, or so I’ve been told. I did my best to remove any bubbles I saw before processing, but after taking the jars out of the water bath, I noticed immediately small bubbles in my chutney clinging around the edges of the jars. As long as they don’t move or fizz when I open the jar, the canning experts have told me they are safe to eat provided there aren’t any other signs of spoilage.
If you’re new to canning, I would definitely recommend this recipe from the experts at Ball. It was really easy to make, and is something different than the jams and pickles that everyone makes. I’ve included the recipe below, but make sure to check out Ball’s website for expert instructions on how to water bath can your chutney so as to preserve it. I’m planning on using my jars for sauce on a savory pizza, but this chutney also pairs well with pork and was amazing on a cheese plate with some creamy Swiss!
4 ½ teaspoons of Whole Allspice
1 6-inch Cinnamon Stick, broken
10 Cups of Cherries, washed, destemed, deseeded, and roughly chopped
2 Large Apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 ½ Cups Vidalia Onions or another type of sweet Onion, finely chopped
1 Cup White Vinegar, 5% Acidity
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Salt
1 Cup of Brown Sugar
1 ½ Cup of Raisins
Make a spice bag with cheesecloth to hold the Allspice and Cinnamon.
Using a large stainless steel pot, bring to a boil over medium high heat the spice bag, Cherries, Apples, Onions, Vinegar, Garlic, and Salt. Boil hard, stirring frequently for 20 minutes. (You might need to reduce the heat towards the end as the juices start evaporating to prevent charring, but keep it at a boil.)
After 20 minutes, add the Brown Sugar and let it dissolve. Reduce the heat to a gentle boil, stirring frequently for about another 20 minutes. Test the chutney for doneness by seeing if it will mound in a spoon. If it does, add the raisins and return it to a hard boil constantly stirring while it heats up.
Remove from heat and follow the instructions for a water bath using sterilized equipment. Process for 10 minutes with adjustments made based on altitude. The flavor of the chutney will be best after 2-3 weeks of storage, giving it time to mellow.
You can also freeze the jars for storage if you are not comfortable with water bath preserving. This will make six to seven 250 mL jars.