Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mango & Red Pepper Chutney

I recently joined the Foodie Blog Roll (see sidebar) hosted by the Leftover Queen and there is a monthly Food Joust in the Queen's honor. This cooking event challenges participants to develop a recipe using three ingredients put forth by the preceding winner. The May Joust trio includes mangoes, cardamom and brown sugar, which inspired me to make a mango chutney to go along with all the bhaji mania and Indian-influenced recipes my family loves.

Mangoes are a new fruit for me. I have bought many a jar of Major Grey's mango chutney, but I don't think I have ever enjoyed a fresh mango, much less cooked with one. I did a little research on various mango chutney recipes and none that I saw called for cardamom, but this spice has a nice ginger and lemon taste, so I thought it would work well in a chutney. The other chutneys I have made from apples and tomatoes have all turned a uniform molasses brown, so I thought a bit of red pepper would brighten up the color.

I was able to get three hard green mangoes at the supermarket and waited for them to brighten up and ripen, but it seems I got them in three different stages of development. After five days, one was half-red and going a bit soft, one was springy and only a little bit red and one remained green and hard. It was time to start experimenting....

My copy of Nuevo Cubano Cooking (by Sue Mullin, NY: Chartwell, 2003) advised wearing rubber gloves in case of skin allergy. A little more Internet research showed that mangoes are botanically related to my diabolical arch-enemy, poison ivy, which turns me into a puffball with slitted eyes, so I made sure to wear my dishwashing gloves when I chopped up these fruit. I did cut off a few yellow rubber fingertips as the mango flesh is slippery and has a maddening attraction to its huge, flat pit, but I didn't want to end up a scratchy, puffy mess, so I stuck with it.

The best way to cut a mango is to make longitudinal cuts along the crazy center pit, and this website has lots of good instructional photos, so I am glad to have found that thanks to another Foodie Jouster. Then you can score the fruit and scoop it away from the peel directly into a bowl from the two outside pieces. I kept my pieces on the large side since I figured they would cook down in the chutney, and this turned out to be the case. Ripe mango is quite tasty and I will have to get some for future fruit salads.

I have some experience canning, so I went ahead and processed my mango chutney in a boiling water bath, but since this only makes a small batch, 2 cups, you could also just refrigerate it. All the vinegar and spices should keep it for several months, if properly covered. If you do want to experiment with canning, it's really not as scary as it sounds at the outset. Do invest in a jar lifter, proper jars and lids and a wide-mouth funnel and make sure you have a good recipe to follow. You need a strong back and hands to lift the heavy canning pot full of water and jars and you want to be extra-cautious when handling boiling-hot jars, but there is nothing more satisfying than hearing those lids seal ("POP!") when they cool and seeing your produce lined up on the pantry shelf. There are lots of great canning books and Internet resources to help you get started.

On to the jousting:

Mango and Red Pepper Chutney

1-1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar

3 ripe mangoes (not over-ripe), peeled and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 red pepper, cut into 2 inch strips
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 big slices of crystallized ginger, chopped (mine was rock-hard so I pulverized it with a mortar and pestle; you could also substitute 1 tsp. ground ginger)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
3 cardamom pods, seeded and pounded a bit in the mortar and pestle (discard the husk)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. snipped chives (adds a bit of dark color)

In an enameled pot, mix sugar and vinegar. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally to melt sugar.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Simmer, uncovered, until a liquid is syrupy, at least 45 minutes. Don't cook too long or the all components of the chutney will turn a uniform brown.

You can then cool and refrigerate your chutney or process it in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Makes 4 half-pint jars (two cups). This chutney is medium-spicy. If you want to kick up the heat you could add fresh chiles or cracked black pepper.

Mango chutney is a divine accompaniment to any curry or spicy food, great slathered on a cracker with cream cheese or try a peanut butter and chutney sandwich (PBC).

***There is still time to join me in this month's joust. Participants must blog and enter their entry in the Foodie Joust by May 1st. See here for the Jousting rules.


Kavs said...

Wow, your chutney looks yummy - bet the ginger addition gives it a nice kick!

good luck in the joust...

LisaRene said...

I am one of those people scared by canning :) Can't exactly say why, but there is something intimidating about it. Great idea to make a canned entry and chutney is so tasty and versatile. A chutney and peanut butter sandwich does sound good!

Hope there are many more mangos in your future!

Thistlemoon said...

I love chutneys! This looks great! Best of luck and congrats on your first Joust!

Rachel said...

Kavs: The candied ginger is good and adds a bit of texture, too. I love it.

LisaRene: Canning does seem like a big deal, but I was lucky enough to have a gardening friend can with me the first several times, so she taught me how to do it and it really isn't that intimidating if you have a few basic tools. I do remain intimidated by the pressure canner though, and haven't tried that. It looks like something that might explode, so I'm a bit wary.

Jenn: My Queen, thank you for hosting this royal foodie joust. It turns out that my family and I are digging mangoes now, who knew!