It's not yet cherry season here on the east coast although I think we will actually have a season this year which is a nice change from last year when some freaky frosts ruined the cherry crop. But it must be cherry season on the west coast because I received a rather large box of gorgeous sweet cherries in the mail last week as part of Sweet Preservation's "canbassador" program. They provide the fruit, I eat, preserve and write about it. Seems fair, right?
Naturally, we ate a ton of the cherries -- my little boys looked downright grisly. Thanks to my husband's tireless stem-pulling and pitting efforts and to the wonder that is Excalibur, our valiant food dehydrator (the name never fails to crack me up) we also dried about a quart of cherries and made two trays of delicious cherry fruit leather.
But there were still rather a lot of cherries left after all that so I finished off the case with a small batch of this sweet cherry and onion chutney. The jars are clanking away in their boiling water bath as I type this, in fact.
I've loved chutney's unique mix of sweet and spice ever since I first tried Major Grey's mango as a kid. Soooo good with curries, with meat, with yogurt sauce and more. Ever since it dawned on me that you can actually make your own chutney, I've made loquat chutney, apple rhubarb chutney and plum chutney - all of them delicious.
But this was my maiden voyage with sweet cherry chutney and I am indebted to Marisa McLellan's for her excellent sweet cherry chutney recipe at Food In Jars - one of my favorite sources for canning and preserving recipes and tips. If you like to can, check out Marisa's cookbooks - they're perfect little packages of preserving goodness.
Most of the work is in the pitting, of course. Don't even bother if you don't have a cherry pitter, I say. Luckily, they are cheap.
We've got this very straight-forward German one made by Westmark that works quite well but I have had covetous thoughts about this OXO cherry pitter that supposedly limits the splattering... It's only $13 so I may splurge at some point, methinks.
I did the pitting outside - so much easier and more pleasant than cleaning the whole kitchen afterwards. The rest was pretty easy - dice the cherries, dice the onion, peel and grate the ginger, zest and juice two lemons, add cider vinegar, brown sugar, dried fruit, red pepper flakes and mustard seed and a bit of salt.
Put it all in a pot and cook it down for about an hour. Then can it - don't worry, there are many more details about how to go about that in the recipe below.
Boom! You've got five pints of this pretty, spiced chutney on your shelf for the next time you make curried chickpeas or roast a leg of lamb. It's the perfect foil for something savory and spiced, especially when accompanied by a creamy, cooling cucumber yogurt sauce. If you're new to canning, check out my short tutorial here to get started.
Makes 5 pints or 10 half-pints
* 4 pounds sweet cherries, pitted and diced
* 2 cups minced yellow onion (about 1 large)
* 2 1/2 cups brown sugar
* 2 cups apple cider vinegar
* 1 cup dried sweet cherries or dried cranberries
* 1 cup golden raisins
* 2 lemons, zested and juiced
* 3 Tbsps minced or grated fresh ginger (peeled, of course)
* 2 Tbsps mustard seed
* 2 tsps red pepper flakes
* 2 tsps sea salt
1. Place all the ingredients in a large pot and cook over medium heat until boiling, then turn the heat way down and simmer, stirring often, until the mixture has reached a thick consistency - about one hour.
2. When the chutney is about 10 minutes away from done, bring a large canning pot of water to a boil and sterilize the 5 pint jars (or 10 half-pint jars or whatever mix of half-pint and full pint jars you want to use to equal 5 pints.)
3. Once the chutney is at the desired consistency, turn the heat off. Drain and remove the sterilized jars from the hot water and set them on a clean dish towel next to the pot of chutney. Using a canning funnel, ladle the hot chutney into the jars, leaving half an inch of head room in the jars. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth then drop the sterilized lids on top, add the bands and tighten only until you feel that the lids are secure.
4. Then use your jar lifter to place the filled jars back in the canning pot and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off after 15 minutes and use your jar lifter to remove the jars to the towel to let them cool in a draft-free spot. As they cool, you should hear that wonderful little popping noise as the lids suck down to create a good, stong seal. Label the jars (trust me, your memory may not be as good as you think it will be...) and store them without the bands in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
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