Mango is the king of fruits for all Indians. If you have any doubt, meet us during mango season, better still visit India and eat them fresh. Believe you me, you will be converted.
The next best thing to a fresh mango during the off season are foods made using the fruit. This summer I spent some time in my kitchen experimenting with different types of mango chutneys or jams spurred on by a lot of inspiring work by fellow bloggers and homecooks.
Welcoming Fall with a Throwback to Summer
As trees across northeastern USA change color and chrysanthemums bloom once again, it is surely time to welcome fall and its splendour. But not before taking stock of summers gains – not physical (although weight is always an issue!) but culinary adventures that have enlivened my senses.
Searching for answers….
It is often the case that a new food or recipe idea encourages and enthuses the mind to be creative. As soon as an answer is found, which is rather quick in our hyper connected world with brilliant bloggers and homecooks sharing ideas, there is a fizzling out of that creative energy. This time around I decided to tackle different kinds of questions or rather break up my one pursuit – of making a good, lasting mango chutney or jam – into smaller pieces, focussing on one aspect at a time. I am listing the guiding questions I was able to break down as a result of this thought process.
Q1: How to use sugar judiciously or not at all in the jamming process ?
Q2: What to use as a preserving agent when there is none in the house?
Q3: How many summer fruits can be combined with mango to ensure the flavour remains predominantly of mango?
Q4: How to recreate a taste from my childhood of a shredded mango pickle?
Q5: Which summer herbs would make for a refreshing chutney?
Q6: Would I succeed in making a lime marmalade with mango?
Mango Basil Chutney: Combining Fresh Herbs with Mango
While we were still enjoying relative abundance of mangoes in July a sort of panic had started setting in. If you haven’t read about our mutual love for mangoes on this blog – you can find out more here and here . Typically in India produce markets are flooded by a continuous stream of variety after variety of mangoes until the end of the monsoon season, which is around the end of August. That clock still ticks in my expat mind! So, I started thinking of ways to preserve whatever little is available in the US (Ataulfo and Tommy Atkins).
The Mango Basil Chutney – recipe is on the blog- was made by combining fresh basil leaves that I have enjoyed all season from a tiny, flourishing plant, with some fleshy Tommy Atkins. Since Tommy Atkins aren’t the sweetest fruit, I added some sugar.
Combining Other Summer Fruits & Mangoes
First Came the Plum Mango Ginger Chutney
As August came around and Tommy Atkins were still available, I decided to take the plunge of using plums and peaches to make more jam like chutneys.
The Plum Mango Ginger Chutney was inspired by my research about Iranian food. In mid-august the Parsi (Zoroastrian) community in India celebrated the Parsi New Year. To mark the occasion I decided to cook some Lagan Nu Custard with a spiced chutney as a nod to the Parsis’ Persian origins. This one has become a staple spread for my morning toast. The ripe plums used in this recipe were so sweet that I ended up using very little sugar.
Next, Combining Peach and Lime with Mangoes
If there are ripe red plums in the produce aisles, there are bound to be peaches as well. And that’s where I turned my attention next. Tackling two questions at once, I decided to combine ripe peaches, with mangoes and threw in sliced lime as well. I have a recipe but it needs just a little more testing and tasting (we haven’t eaten this one yet!) before I share it.
Sometimes Sugar is Necessary!
As much as I was pleased about not having to use too much sugar while using plums; cooking with peaches which were fairly tart forced me to make a sugar syrup. As with the plum and mango chutney, here too the jam was spiced with ginger and some whole spices – cardamom and cinnamon. By next summer you’ll be able to see a recipe on the blog!
More Herbs – Lime, Basil, Oregano and Mango Chutney
When my reserve of the Mango Basil chutney started diminishing, I decided to make some more but this time with a twist. I had been reading about marmalades and found a wonderful article by Corby Kummer in the Atlantic on the fine tuned process of making this kind of jam. I had already applied some of the tips offered except making a chutney with plenty of sliced lime and lemons.
That’s what I did here and added more of the Italian duo of fresh basil and oregano. The jam has been sealed tight since then (about mid august) and marinating in its own juices. I am tempted to twist it open but following Kummer’s advice am holding back, with much difficulty!
Finally, Recreating (almost) a childhood favourite – Shredded Mango Pickle
Everyone’s grandmother has some tricks up her sleeve, whether culinary, or in other aspects of running a household and generally living a sane life. One culinary item that I looked forward to while visiting my grandparents was a shredded mango pickle that my grandmother made every other season. We called it Kutra Aam Ka Achār. Kutra here means shredded. Most achārs or pickles are made with unripe mangoes called Keri in Hindi. Typically, the whole mango is used in the pickling process. But the shredded mango pickle of my childhood was made using only the pulp.
Late in august with no unripe mangoes at hand, I decided to experiment with some tart Tommy Atkins to recreate the flavour of that kutra achār. I knew that without unripe shredded mango that softens over time into a marmalade like consistency I wouldn’t achieve the same texture. But I could try and replicate the flavour with the same combination of spices. That’s exactly what I did by using achāri spices – nigella, fenugreek, coriander and fennel seeds along with whole red chillies, bay leaves and whole black cardamoms. I am happy to report that the flavour is pretty much on point. Next season I will repeat this with Keris (unripe mangoes).
Did my questions get answered?
Yes! There is no better teacher than experience and after cooking some many kinds of jams and compote I am quite confident in my ability make a chutney with any fruit.
You don’t need to add artificial pectin:
I know now thanks to Kummer and Kimberly from The Daring Gourmet that fruit skins, and in the case of lime and lemons, the pits have natural pectin that helps thicken jams without the need of additional pectin.
Cook the fruit first:
I also learnt that when making jams it is advised to cook the fruits first before adding sugar. But when adding sugar, it is advisable to warm it first to help it dissolve and set the jam.
Use vinegar instead of citric acid:
Most importantly I learnt by hit and trial that regular vinegar is a great preservative that has enough acidity to make citric acid unnecessary.
I hope you will find these ideas useful in your adventures. Lets see what fall has to offer.