Make Meals More Interesting: Homemade Chutney

Traditionally paired with Indian food, versatile, sweet-and-sour chutneys are a lively complement to a variety of foods, from sandwiches to cheese plates to spicy curries.

| June/July 2013

Chutney is a condiment akin to relish, and it’s also similar to chow-chow and piccalilli. Depending on the source, you’ll find a variety of definitions for each of these zingy condiments, all of which have storied histories and traditional associations — curries in India, cold meats in England, hot dogs in North America. Chutneys make plain foods exotic, lend a kick of spice, and are a forgiving outlet for creative experimentation.

Chutneys (from the Sanskrit word chatni, meaning “to lick”) are intended to complement other foods. They are easy to make and chunkier than sauces — a great way to add interest and variety to meals.

Probably the most famous chutney, Major Grey’s, is not a brand name but a type of mango chutney, according to Mimi Sheraton in The New York Times. “Considered a mild chutney, as compared to spicier blends such as Colonel Skinner and Hot Bengal Club, Major Grey’s is the most popular in the United States,” the Times reported in a 1982 article.

Sheraton repeated British condiment company Crosse & Blackwell’s story that Major Grey was an officer in the Bengal Lancers, and, while in India, “he or his Bengali cook created this chutney by combining mangoes, raisins, chiles, garlic, vinegar, sugar and spices.”

The original formula “is very sweet, soft and jamlike; it is made in this country with ingredients such as corn syrup, caramel coloring and dehydrated onion, which one doubts could have been part of the original recipe.”

Sheraton also reported that “Major Grey’s Chutney was unknown in India, where storebought chutneys were regarded with scorn,” and she relayed a charming limerick by John P. Mackay:

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