For the last couple of months, I’ve been ruminating on the idea of a chutney sweetened strictly with dried fruit. Though most chutneys typically have a goodly amount of raisins, currants, and dried apricots in them, they also rely on either brown sugar or honey to balance out the tang of the vinegar.
I wanted to see if I could make something delicious using just dried fruit as balance, without even a drop of honey or sugar. And so I called on dates. They pack a mighty wallop of sweetness and I had a hunch that they’d fit in nicely alongside shallots, apple cider vinegar, and star anise in a small batch of chutney.
Well, it worked, and on the first try, no less. This is a chutney that is gently sweet and mildly puckery. You get some of the date flavor in each bite, and that sweetness is backed up by the tiny, tender currants. The apples also do their part, though they carry more of the vinegar flavor than their natural sweetness.
I used a little last night to perk up leftover chicken. When my sister gets here on Friday, we’re opening a jar to eat with crumbly cheddar cheese. And I have plans to swirl a little into plain yogurt to eat with my next batch of this curried chicken.
Note 1: I did use a little bit of crystallized ginger in this chutney, which does have a marginal amount of granulated sugar on the outside. But I see it as incidental in the grand scheme of things. If you prefer, you could use freshly grated ginger in its place.
Note 2: Remember that chutney is like wine in that it needs a little breathing time before it’s ready to serve. Open your jar at least half an hour before you serve it so that the intensity of the vinegar can mellow.
- 4 cups peeled, cored, and chopped apples (about 3-4 medium apples)
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup pitted and chopped dates (about 6 ounces whole dates with pits)
- 3/4 cup minced shallot
- 1/2 cup dried currants
- 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Combine the apples, vinegar, dates, shallots, currants, ginger, salt, chili flakes, cardamom, star anise, and cinnamon sticks in a low, wide pan.
- Stir to combine and place over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-high.
- Cook, stirring regularly, for 40 to 50 minutes, until the chutney no longer looks watery and the apples have softened enough that you can mash them with the back of your spoon.
- When chutney has thickened sufficiently, remove the pan from the heat.
- Remove cinnamon stick and star anise pieces.
- Funnel into clean, hot jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
- When time is up, remove jars from canner and place them on a folded kitchen towel to cool.
- Once jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals. Sealed jars can be stored at room temperature for up to one year. Any unsealed jars should be kept in the fridge and used promptly.