Blueberry chutney (a.k.a. a good excuse to hang out with a friend!)

Having a flat of blueberries (12 pints!) means feeling flush, abundant, and ready for some canning or preserving of berries in some way.  A person in my reading group gave me a recipe years ago for a blueberry chutney.  I’m not sure where the recipe came from originally, but it’s really great.  It’s good on chicken.  On salmon.  On a salty brat.  The recipe suggests stirring it into yogurt, but that’s never seemed particularly ideal to me.

I made the chutney a couple of summers for the first time when I was learning how to can.  I gave some to a friend and it’s probably one of her favorite things.  When we found ourselves with lots of blueberries, she suggested we get together to can some together and make a huge batch of it that we could share.  I’ve had mixed luck in doubling batches of recipes when I can, so instead of making a double batch, we made two batches in two pots.  We started with “hers” and then began cooking mine as her jars were in the water bath canning.  By the time all of her jars were canned, my chutney was just getting ready.  I had a bunch of an apple vinegar flavored with lingonberry, so for my batch, I subbed that in for the straight red wine vinegar.  It made my finished product a little tart, but it’s a nice addition.

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It begins with a lovely blend of spices:  mustard seeds, lemon zest, brown sugar, salt, clove, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne and cayenne.  Add onion, raisins, maple syrup, red wine vinegar, a tart apple, and blueberries and let time do the work. In about 45 to 60 minutes, you end up with this amazing concoction that smells so good and is incredibly delicious.

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It begins as a subtle but very vinergar-y smelling mess.  Over time, the blueberries and the apple break down and the onion mellows.  The mustard seeds begin to assert themselves a bit.  You start to get hits of the various spices.  As you stir it occasionally to keep it from burning to the bottom of the pan, it leaps up to tickle your nose.  It’s fun to make because it plays with you the whole time you’re cooking.

We canned what we produced.  It only makes a handful of jars for each batch.  The best part is there’s always too much to get rid of but not enough for a full jar, so you get the delight of eating some of what you’ve created right away since you can’t can it if the jar isn’t full.

So good.  Oregon blueberry love.

*****

Here’s the full recipe (simplified):

  • 5 cups of blueberries
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 tart apple, peeled and chopped (they say grated, but I don’t find that necessary)
  • 1/2 cup of raisins (they call for dark, but we used a mix of light and dark)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 and 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 2 T mustard seeds (we used half yellow, half brown since this is what I had)
  • 1 T lemon zest (I just zested one lemon for each batch and added the juice of 1/2 lemon to each for flavor)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ginger
  • 1/4 t. cloves
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1/4 t. cayenne

You basically put everything into a big pot, bring it to a boil, and then lower the heat to simmer for 45-60 minutes.  Our first batch might have been closer to 6 cups of berries so it took the full hour to reduce.  The second batch was 5 cups and was ready at just before 45 minutes.  It also depends on how hot your simmer is.  Be sure to keep an eye on it.  There’s a moment when it goes thick where it’d be very easy to scorch the bottom and ruin a whole batch.  It’s as if one minute there’s so much liquid and the next minute it’s all gone.  You’re looking for a “scoop-able” consistency — not totally thick, but not too runny.  It will thicken up as it cools.

If you’re going to can it, you put it in sterilized jars and into the water bath for 10 minutes.  I always then leave the jars in the hot water without heat for 5 minutes more before removing them to cool.  If any jars fail to seal, reprocess for another 10 minutes.  If you forget to check and notice a lid pops when pressed down, it means it didn’t seal.  You can still eat it, but you need to refrigerate it right away and get to eating it in a few weeks.  The canned jars can keep in a cool, dry place for at least a year, but you’ll be lucky if you don’t devour it all during the summer months of BBQ bliss!  My mouth is watering right now!

If your end product is too thick, you can always thin it as a pan sauce with any liquid and bits left in a pan after cooking meat.  Maybe add a little wine or chicken broth if you need more liquid.  It’s a very satisfying flavor profile for cooked meats of all kinds.  It’s a wonderful replacement for ketchup on a cooked brat, especially one with the char of a BBQ!  It can stand up to some extra mustard given the mustard seeds in the chutney.

If anybody recognizes this recipe and knows the source, please let me know!  Whomever came up with it, you have my GRATITUDE!

*****

I had to have it immediately with crispy potatoes and brat!

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