Chutney is a condiment with a confusing identity.
~ Andrew Wheeler ~
Our family fridge hides at least half a shelf of condiment bottles whenever you look. And that’s only the condiments that are stored in the fridge! As food writer Andrew Wheeler mentions, chutney is an extra confusing condiment. In his article about chutney on Serious Eats, he mentions the difference between Indian chutneys and English chutneys. If you are South African, the lines get even more blurry! We have a strong Malay influence in some of our cuisine, we have a large Indian community, and we were colonised by the Dutch and English. Chutney is different for different people in this Rainbow Nation. Yes, many people will tell you South Africans only eat Mrs Ball’s, but I think we are more interesting than that! I have nearly converted all the Mrs Ball’s fans in my life to my Spicy Tomato Chutney!
Sugar and spice and tomatoes
This Spicy Tomato Chutney recipe has a bit of all the major chutney components. The savoury component comes from the tomatoes and spices like mustard seeds. The sweetness comes from brown sugar and crushed pineapple. And the spiciness from ginger and chilli. I started making it during a Covid lockdown when I was buying vegetables in bulk for delivery. I got a big pack of tomatoes, some fresh ginger and two huge pineapples. Usually, I use bulk packs of tomatoes for my Home-made Tomato Sauce, but now I had to think up something new. Eventually, I grabbed my trusted Kook & Geniet and found their Tomato Chutney recipe. What I came up with was definitely more of an English chutney than an Indian one, but I could use up all my fresh tomatoes in a very tasty way. My beautiful bottles of red chutney also make lovely gifts.
Traditional but modern?
The Kook & Geniet tomato chutney recipe is very straightforward. Peel and chop your tomatoes, boil all the ingredients in an enamel pot until it has the correct consistency and bottle while hot. It uses sultanas which I replaced with very finely chopped fresh pineapple or a tin of crushed pineapple. I have also changed from their suggested ginger powder and chilli powder to using freshly grated ginger and dried chilli flakes. It really seemed as if the tomatoes would benefit from using red wine vinegar instead of white vinegar. I have also recently discovered the amazing flavour of sherry vinegar, so that was incorporated in my special Spicy Tomato Chutney as well. Is it a traditional chutney? Who knows? Is it like Mrs Ball’s? Not really. Is it delicious? You bet!
Spicy Tomato Chutney
- Food processor
- 4-5 250ml sterilised jars with lids
- 1 onion
- 1,5 - 2 kg plum tomatoes, washed and trimmed
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 thumbsized piece ginger, peeled and grated
- 30 ml olive oil
- 1 tbsp crushed red chilli flakes use more or less depending on your taste
- 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
- 1 c pineapple, very finely chopped or use one tin of crushed pineapple
- 2 c light brown sugar
- 1 c red wine vinegar
- 1-2 tbsp sherry vinegar optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- Finely chop the onion in your food processor.
- Add the olive oil to a large pot and warm over medium heat. Add the onions and cook slowly till translucent, but not browned.
- While the onions are cooking slowly, quarter the tomatoes and blitz in the food processor until it is totally pulped. See note.
- Add the garlic, ginger, black mustard seeds and chilli to the pot and cook till fragrant.
- Add the tomato pulp, pineapple, sugar and red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
- Cook on medium to low heat, stirring often, for 60 to 70 minutes until it is thick and jammy. Add the sherry vinegar about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
- While the chutney is cooking, wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water and rinse them in boiling water from a kettle - I do this in the sink. Let the jars and lids dry upside down on a clean kitchen towel until needed.
- Once the chutney is ready, spoon it into the jars while still hot. Fill the jars to the top and close tightly. Wipe down the jars with a damp cloth to clean off any spillage. Jars can be kept in a cool food cupboard for about 2 months. Store in the fridge once opened.
- Even though we were taught to always remove the skins of tomatoes when cooking with them, I never do. It started from laziness, but I really think it isn't necessary. If you process the tomatoes to a uniform pulp, you do not get unsightly bits of tomato skin in your chutney. If you do not have a food processor you can just chop the tomatoes finely, but then I do recommend peeling them first.
- You can sterilize your jars in any way you prefer. I have found my method to be good enough to keep the content of the jars for some months, but the chutney is also preserved with sugar and vinegar.
- Be very careful when filling the jars with the hot chutney. Chutney splattered on your skin can burn badly and the jars get too hot to handle very quickly.
- You could collect used glass chutney bottles for your Spicy Tomato Chutney, but then make sure your chutney has a runny consistency or it will be hard to get out of the bottle.