I am a little bit obsessed with the new Bi-Rite Market cookbook. A review copy arrived last week and I haven’t been able to keep my hands off it. I get a lot of cookbooks, so for one to capture my attention so thoroughly is a sure sign that it is an absolute winner.
I plan on showing you more photos from this magical volume in my weekly cookbook post tomorrow, but earlier today I made a pear chutney inspired by it and I just couldn’t wait to tell you all about it. Made from fresh fall pears, dried cherries, freshly grated ginger and a pinch of ground cardamom, this chutney is heady and intensely flavored. As it was cooking, I couldn’t keep myself from nipping small spoonfuls from the pot. I’ve been craving fall in the worst way and it tasted so deeply autumnal. It was just what I needed.
Now, I say that this chutney is inspired by the Bi-Rite Market cookbook because while there is a chutney recipe in there that calls for these same main ingredients, halfway through cooking, I veered fairly wildly off course.
I like my chutneys to be a little bit sweet, strongly flavored and quite acidic. As it’s written, the Bi-Rite version just didn’t give quite me what I want from a chutney (though I adored their choices in fruits and flavors). I pumped up the amount of vinegar, sugar and grated ginger, added quite a bit more liquid and quadrupled the cooking time, so that it could simmer, thicken and soften without running dry.
As you can see from these final pictures, my finished chutney is deep and dark. The pears give it clean, fruity base. The cherries (as well as a splash of apply brandy) add a boozy element. The pinch of cardamom makes for good fragrance. And the ginger, mustard seeds and vinegar lend edge and pucker. It has a lovely texture that is spreadable without being runny (I cannot abide a watery chutney).
Please don’t judge it by its tar-like appearance. I promise, when it’s inspected in light slightly more friendly then the overhead fluorescent bulbs in my kitchen, it is nuanced and appealing to the eye. Had I not finished it moments before dinnertime, I would have unearthed the hunk of fancypants clothbound Cabot cheddar we bought this weekend and gone to town with cheese and chutney.
Truly, I am so pleased with how this chutney ended up. I’ve been feeling uninspired by the kitchen lately and so it was such a joy to find a recipe that captured my attention and motivated me to chop, cook and improvise. Any cookbook that can motivate me to gather ingredients and dash to the stove is one that is worth its space on the shelf. Don’t you agree?
Adapted wildly from the Bi-Rite Market cookbook
Makes 3 half pint jars
- 3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped roughly
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons apple brandy
- 4 cups roughly chopped Bartlett pears (4-5 medium pears)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- Place dried cherries in a heat-proof bowl or measuring cup and pour boiling water over top. Set aside.
- Heat a large, non-reactive pot or skillet over medium heat. Add oil and heat until it shimmers. Add onion and sea salt and cook until the onion softened and develops a bit of color. Add ginger, mustard seeds and cardamom and cook until spices are fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop.
- Add vinegar and brand to pan and use a wooden spoon to work up any bits of fond on the bottom of the pan. Add dried cherries and their liquid. Add chopped pears and sugar and stir to combine.
- Reduce heat to low, put a lid on the pan and let pears simmer gently for 30-35 minutes so that they soften.
- When the pears can be crushed with the back of a wooden spoon, remove the lid from the pot. Increase the heat to high and cook quickly, stirring regularly, to help reduce any remaining liquid.
- When chutney is no longer at all watery and looks deeply colored, take a taste. Should it need it, add a splash more vinegar, a pinch more salt or a spoonful more sugar. Do make sure to taste for adjustments before canning, as ingredients can vary from kitchen to kitchen and it's the only way to ensure that you'll wind up with a product that you like.
- When chutney is fully cooked down and tastes good to you, ladle it into three prepared half pint jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
- When time is up, remove jars from canning pot and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and eaten within a week. Sealed jars can be kept in the pantry for up to one year.