Mango chutney it is
Mrs. K. told me after I bought the luscious orangey red mangoes that for canning the mangoes should be green because then they are tart, instead of sweet, and are firmer. I’m not sure why she didn’t tell me this before when she gave me her special recipe. Maybe she wanted me to learn from trial and error. After all, if a guru told her student the most direct route to Nirvana, what would that teach the student about life?
My mom, sister and me seriously considered eating 21 ripe mangoes in the next two days rather than use them, but then we decided that was just too crazy (even for us), and so went ahead and made the chutney.
A word to mango chutney makers: Make sure kids are around when you’re slicing the mangoes because, no matter how sharp your knife, there’s always some fleshy bits that stay on the skin and those make great, sweet snacks. My seven-year-old niece Zaira took a spot right beside me so she’d have first dibs on the luscious mango leftovers (after lemons, mango is her second favorite fruit; lucky her!). Before throwing them on the mango pile amassing on the kitchen counter for compost, I handed them to her one by one. She was in real juicy fruit heaven and not the Wrigley kind.
I told Mrs. K., and she said, when she was a child in India she would pull the skins through her teeth to get the mango flesh that was left over after her mom had cut the fruit up for chutney. So you see dear reader, maybe we too are starting our own family tradition right here in North America just as Indian families have done for generations.
This recipe is adapted from the one Mrs. K. gave me in which she used dried mangoes, only because when she first came to North America from India, there were no fresh mangoes available. If you use green mangoes then you can add 4 tablespoons of vinegar and up to two cups more water. For extra-thick chutney, you may wish to forgo the water altogether. For ripe mangoes I suggest 6 tablespoons of vinegar. If the mangoes are more tart than sweet then add another 2 cups of sugar to the recipe. Mrs. K. said to add enough red chilies so you can see the flakes in the jar. If you’re unsure about the best way to cut a mango, look at this short video. There are other ones out there but I especially like this one because it features a father and daughter, which is pretty sweet.
6 almost-ripe red mangoes, cut into small pieces
2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
Dried red chilies, your discretion and taste
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
6 tablespoons vinegar
Soak the mangoes in 2 to 4 cups of water (depending on size) overnight. Next day, wash and dry the mangoes with a towel and keep 2 cups of water for use later on. Cut the mangoes, first on one side of the stone, then the other. Next, slice the remaining sides or ‘fingers.’ After, cut lines into the mango flesh lengthways without cutting into the skin. Then cut across the lines so that you have a checkered pattern. Take the mango section in your hands and pull down on the sides so that the mango squares stick up like the back of a hedgehog. Slice the small cubes off the skin so that most of the flesh comes off. Do this with all mango pieces.
Add 2 cups of sugar to the 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add mangoes, salt and spices, and cook for a ½ hour or more. Mrs. K. told me about a trick to see if your chutney is ready to can. Put a spoonful of liquid onto a plate turned sideways. If the liquid runs fast on the plate then the chutney isn’t ready, yet if it runs slowly then it is. In other words, you don’t want it to be too runny or too thick, as it will thicken when it cools.
Now that your chutney is ready, you can keep it warm on the stove and prepare the jars for canning. One of my favorite canning websites is Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars. She has a list of great resources on how to can. Everybody has her or his own particular way of canning. The most important thing is to make sure the jars are sterilized and that when you put the lid on, that the jars are properly sealed. I listen for the popping sound, and also push on the lid slightly (after 12 to 24 hours) to make sure it doesn’t go up or down.
But I’m no expert and am always looking at instructions to make sure I haven’t forgotten so please do look it up!
Yield: 10 small or 5 medium jars