Chutney is an important feature of traditional South African cooking, and particularly those South Africans with Dutch and Malay heritage. It’s an essential accompaniment to curry as well as being an ingredient in a number of traditional recipes including bobotie.* As are apricots – in chutneys, in jam – and which are also eaten dried, stewed or fresh.
November is apricot season around our village and lorries, laden with crates of golden, ripe fruit, make their way down the hill, past our house to the markets and/or to the canning factory in a nearby town. Everywhere one looks, there are apricots, and so it was on Friday evening when we arrived at our “local”, also frequented by the farmers from hereabouts. We were a little later than, usual and as we walked in, there was a crate of apricots with a pile of cardboard trays next to it, sitting on the tailgate of one of the regulars’ bakkies.** We hadn’t long arrived, performed the necessary greeting rituals, and acquired our drinks when The Husband leaned over to tell me that Jan Boer had informed him that we had a tray of apricots to take home.
“O koek!” I thought (as they say in the local lingo), “that’s a very lot of apricots for just two of us!”
Last year, we also had the fortune to be given a load of apricots. Those I preserved in syrup – not as successfully as I would have liked – but I do use them from time to time (and check Instagram for pictures of an apricot sorbet made with these – recipes to come in due course).
So, with a plentiful stock of preserved apricots on hand, I figured I’d try to make chutney. I also had to move smartly because apricots, do not keep well, particularly if they are ripe and ready to eat – as these were.
I consulted my collection of recipe books, only to discover that none had a recipe for a chutney with fresh apricots. So I had to invoke GoG (Good old Google) and see what I could find out. Although I did find a few recipes, I wasn’t entirely sold on some of the spice combinations. What was common to all the recipes, including in the hard copy oracles I had consulted, was the ratio of fruit to sugar and vinegar. I could also get a sense of the requisite quantity of spices.
The next step was to determine whether the chutney would have an Indian or Malay inclination. I consulted The Husband; we settled for the latter which is characterised by ginger, coriander, fennel, cumin and garlic.
I was thrilled to bits with not just the flavour, but also the colour and consistency.
For once, I recorded what I did at every step of the way. In my notebook. It’s not a journal, technically, as it’s the book in which I often write notes and ideas for blog posts.
Note: the quantities provided below are based on a single kilogram of apricots. The recipes I found ranged from one to ten kilograms. I had 3,3 kg, so had to work things out.
All chutneys have fruit, sugar and vinegar in the ratio of 2 fruit to 1 each of vinegar and sugar. Some recipes call for granulated, brown or molasses sugar, and others for spirit, white wine or cider vinegar. I had to use what I had available in sufficient quantities and settled for ordinary granulated (white) sugar and the vinegar was a combination of apple cider and white spirit vinegar (roughly 1/3 apple cider vinegar).
Apricots, sugar and vinegar
For each kilogram or part, also the following
1 clove of garlic
15g of fresh, grated ginger
1 teaspoon each of yellow and/or black mustard and fennel seeds
½ teaspoon each of ground coriander and cumin
a sprinkling of coarse salt (do not add too much salt – the proverbial pinch is really all it takes!)
What to do
Pip the apricots; peel the onions and garlic, and roughly chop. Blitz in the food processor in batches, transferring each to a large stock/jam pot.
Add the sugar and vinegar and stir, and finally, add the spices. Bring to the boil, stirring from time to time to make sure that the mixture does not catch and burn on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2½ to 3 hours, continuing to stir, until it has reduced, the consistency is chutney-like and the mixture is a deep, rich colour.***
Bottle, hot, in sterilised jars.
The flavour surprised and delighted us: neither The Husband nor I, are fond of a sweet chutney and the apricot chutneys I remember tasting have tended towards being too sweet. This is has a piquant, warm spicy flavour without serious heat. I might, with another batch, consider adding some chilli for a chutney with a bit more bite.
So charmed were we both with this apricot chutney, that we tried it with our braai and boerewors (spicy South African sausage) that evening. We decided that it will make a good accompaniment to not only the traditional fare, but also cheese, ham and turkey. It’s likely, therefore, to be gracing our Christmas table this year.
*More of this in due course
** Utility vehicle, also known as a ute or pickup, depending on the country in which you live
*** Try not to choose the hottest, most humid day of the summer to do this, as I did: it was 28ºC when I started cooking and the temperature proceeded to go up 1º every half hour until I’d finished cooking! I was literally sweating (no, not glowing or perhaps I was!) over a hot gas stove!
© Fiona’s Favourites 2015