In the Kitchen: Plum Chutney

Finally, I did it.  After carting this recipe around since 1985, I finally made the plum chutney.  I think after I write this blog post, I might crack open a bottle of champagne if for no other reason than living to tell the tale after all this time.  And let me tell you, I've had plum trees all along, and I finally bought the plums at the Farmers Market.  That should let you in on how much heartbreak my plum trees have caused me.  (Sniff.)  Let me grab a tissue and dry my eyes.

Here's how you do it.  First, you get some plums.  No small matter if you're trying to grow them yourself.

It reminds me of that Steve Martin routine about "You Can Be A Millionaire and Never Pay Taxes" which starts, "First, you get a million dollars.  Now...."

You'll want the Italian prune plums if you can get them, but I suppose any purple plum would do.  The Italian prune plums have a tart skin and sweet meat, which is the way most plums taste.  I would choose a tart plum over a sweet one for this application.  Then you'll need the following:

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup cider vinegar

You'll want to pit and halve your plums.  I used about four pounds here which works out to around 10 cups once pitted and halved.

(Incidentally, these are very easy to halve and pit.  I did all of these in less than 10 minutes.)

1 cup of golden raisins

1/3 cup chopped onion (I actually used about 1/2 cup)

1 clove garlic, minced (Mine were small, so I used two.  You can never have too much garlic or too much Parmesan cheese.  I'm sure you will agree with me on this point.)

2 teaspoons mustard seed

3 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger

2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Once you have all of your ingredients assembled, here's what you do.  Add the sugars and the vinegar to a saucepan and bring to a boil stirring until the sugars have dissolved.

Then throw in the rest of the ingredients.  It will look like this, with almost no liquid, except in the bottom of the pan.

Return the mixture to a boil and within five minutes, the plums will begin to give up their liquid.

After 15 minutes, there will be quite a bit of liquid in the pan.

After 30 minutes, you'll still see some whole plum halves, but there will be lots of liquid.  This is where the rubber meets the road because you're going to want to cook this down until it is thick.  The recipe said 45-50 minutes, but mine took twice that long.  Just stir it every ten minutes or so.

Eventually, the plums will be mostly cooked down and the liquid will start to disappear.  The chutney will become thick.

Once that happens, you'll fill and lid your jars one at a time.  Here's where I underestimated the recipe.  It didn't seem like I had a lot of plums, but the recipe promised a yield of five pints.  I thought that had to be a misprint since it seemed like half pints would make more sense.  I used half pint jars, which I would have done anyway.  A pint of chutney would be a lot of chutney.  I like to give it as gifts, and I think half pint jars work better for that.  

All of that to say that I expected five half-pint jars.  What I ended up with was eight half-pint jars.  I had washed and prepared seven jars.  In the end I had to scramble and wash a jar and lid, but I didn't process that jar.  I just put it straight into the refrigerator to eat straight from the jar.  Not really.  I think this will be good with chicken, pork, fish, or spread on a cracker with cream cheese.  (Or...straight from the jar cannot be ruled out.  All of those other suggestions are just cheap and tawdry vehicles for the chutney that you truly desire.  But it would be impolite to eat it from the jar in front of others.  Do what I do and save that for your private chutney moments.  Chutney, chutney, chutney.  Come away with me.)

Ahem.  Excuse me.  I get carried away sometimes.  Now where was I?  (Chutney is so distracting.)  Oh yes.  Ladle the hot chutney into your jars and lid them one at a time.

Then process them in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (at my elevation of 1,400 feet, I processed them for 15 minutes).

And voila!  Wonderfully flavorful plum chutney.  If you are a chutney lover like me (and I do mean "lover" in every sense of the word), I promise you will not be disappointed.

The cayenne pepper gives it a nice little kick without being too spicy.  It remains to be seen if the kick will get stronger while it sits on the shelf, but for now, I liked it.

This recipe first appeared in a book called Oregon Sampler: Resorts & Recipes, published in 1985 by the Assistance League of Corvallis (Oregon).

I first saw it in our local newspaper, the Oregonian.

To make it easy for you, I'm reprinting the recipe right here.  Enjoy.

Plum Chutney
adapted from the Assistance League of Corvallis
and published in Oregon Sampler:  Resorts & Recipes (1985)

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
3 1/2 pounds Italian prune plums -- halved and pitted
1 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic -- minced
2 teaspoons mustard seed
3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Bring the sugars and vinegar to a boil in a large saucepan.  When sugars have dissolved, add plums, raisins, onion, garlic, mustard seed, ginger, salt and cayenne and bring to a boil again.  Reduce heat and simmer 45-50 minutes, or until thick.

Wash 8 half-pint jars; keep hot until needed.  Prepare lids as manufacturer directs.

Ladle hot chutney into 1 hot jar at a time, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Wipe jar rim with a clean damp cloth.  Attach lid.  Fill and close remaining jars.  Process in a boiling water canner 10 minutes (15 minutes at 1,001 to 6,000 feet; 20 minutes above 6,000 feet)

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9 comments from clever and witty friends:

Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

I've never had chutney before. I have had plum jam, and, boy is it good. If we were closer to Texas, then I'd get it more often.

Diann said...

You wouldn't believe how fast I printed out a copy of this recipe. Now I have to make it in less than 20 years. Like how about next week. I wonder how much plums are at the farmers market....Thank you for the recipe!

Janet said...

Sounds delicious! I've already made rhubarb chutney this summer but if I can find some decent prune plums I think I'll try this one. Do the raisins break down in the cooking?

Marls said...

That recipe sounds great. I am drooling and wish I was closer to come and taste. I have plums in the freezer so I think I have found the recipe to turn them into chutney. Thanks for sharing it.

Leo said...

That looks really yummy - though I was marvelling more at your measuring things .. the 2 teaspoons spoon, the 3/4 cup cup - I'm always spending hours on google finding hout how many grams of flour are in a cup I write it all down, but don't ask me where I put the notes I can never seem to find them when I need them ..

Snoodles said...

I can't decide if you are my chutney mentor, or if you are leading me into temptation.... LOL

LethargicLass said...

I don't know how you held out for so long on that recipe... I see a recipe I want to try and I am making it within days LOL! You have some interesting measuring spoons... 1.5 teaspoons, 2 teaspoons etc...

Fleurette said...

That sounds delicious! Love plums, thanks for the recipe - will give it a try when they are in season here.

quiltzyx said...

So, didn't you eat it right out of the "extra" jar? LOL It does sound yummy...I'm thinking on a turkey sandwich with cream cheese. MmmmMMmmmMmmMm.

When I perused the other comments, I had to go back & look at the measuring spoons - I hadn't noticed that the spoon said "2 teaspoons" on it! Cool.