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Chutney Recipes and Cooking Tips

Chutney or relish? What's the difference?


Plum chutney
Rob Lawson/Photolibrary/Getty Images
Although chutney is most widely known as a condiment originating in India, the concept has spread worldwide and mutated to suit local needs as most foods do. The term chutney comes from the East Indian chatni, meaning "strongly spiced," and is described as a condiment which usually consists of a mix of chopped fruits, vinegar, spices and sugar cooked into a chunky spread. Most chutneys are on the spicy-hot side, but it's easy to adjust the heat factor if you make your own.

Chutneys are traditionally served with curried foods. The sweet and tart flavor combined with a touch of spice compliments strong-flavored meats such as wild game, but also works well with beef, pork and chicken. Chutney perks up cheeses and sweeter versions make a fabulous spread for crackers and breakfast toast or bagels.

The difference between chutney and relish

Chutney and relish are often used interchangably as condiment terms. The confusion is understandable. Chutneys can be savory, and relishes can be sweet. In general, chutneys have a chunky spreadable consistency much like a preserve, whereas relishes are hardly cooked, use less sugar if any, and are more crunchy to the bite.

Using chutney

There are hundreds, if not thousands of possible combinations of ingredients for chutney. Most chutneys have a fruit base, but many non-sweet vegetables can also be used. Once you get the basic concept down, you can experiment with any number of fruits and/or vegetables. Use firm-fleshed, under-ripe fruits such as green mangos, bananas, peaches, apples, nectarines and apricots. Rhubarb and firm or under-ripe tomatoes are also good candidates. Soft fruits with delicate flavors such as raspberries, strawberries and others will cook down into more of a smooth jam and their flavor will be lost. Dried fruits work particularly well in chutneys since they retain their texture, yet contribute a tart flavor offset by the sugar and spices.

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