Unfussy Fare

Cranberry Chutney


Condiments are proof that life is good. They are the unsung heroes that add sparkle and zest, or crunch and color. They can elevate a one-note food to an elegant string quartet. The magical powers of condiments give me enduring hope. After all, the condiment and whatever it enhances add up to more than sum of their parts. Each alone? Not so much. But together? Much! You see?  The potential sits latent in our refrigerators and pantries. All we need to do is break out (or concoct) the right condiment, and we can generate goodness where there was none before. Condiments are like optimism in a bottle.

I come by my love of condiments honestly. My mother carried a bottle of Tabasco around with her always. It nestled with her calendar, wallet, and makeup in the giant Coach bag she was never without. When she was out and about, and ordered food that turned out to be boring, she would dive into that whale-sized bag, come up with the familiar red-capped bottle, give it a few shakes, and sprinkle some life onto her ho-hum fare.

To my way of thinking, lots of foods are pretty much just vehicles for condiments. Consider the hot dog. The corn chip. The Thanksgiving turkey. Gasp! Blasphemy, I know. Don”t get me wrong. Turkey is okay. But it’s the piles of side dishes and splashes of condiment encircling the bird that keep me coming back. Isn’t it really the gravy that makes the turkey worth eating? Or is it the cranberry chutney?

You can make this chutney a week in advance. And hey, Thanksgiving is next week! The chutney gets better the longer it sits. It’s quick. It’s easy. It screams magenta. That’s a lot of fine qualities for a condiment to have, right? Best of all, this chutney packs a three-ring circus of flavor. The cranberries are their shockingly tart red selves. The onions remain unapologetically oniony. But together they are tamed and enriched by a perfect complement of vinegar, sugar, ginger, chili flakes, and garlic.

Cranberry chutney adds some dazzle to pork or poultry. It also makes a festive appetizer dolloped on a cracker with cream cheese. And though I haven’t tested this yet, I suspect it will make an ordinary leftover turkey sandwich into yet another heartening reminder of life’s potential for goodness.


CRANBERRY CHUTNEY – inspired by this recipe in Gourmet
makes about two cups

1 tablespoon olive oil
5 ounces shallots (about two whole medium-sized shallots), peeled and sliced thinly
½ teaspoon chili flakes
12 ounces fresh cranberries
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 ½ teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan.

Add shallots and chili flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft, about fifteen minutes.

Add all the other ingredients and stir. Reduce heat until the chutney is barely simmering. Simmer for fifteen more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Chutney can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a week or more.


10 Responses to “Cranberry Chutney”

  1. hungry dog says:

    Lovely! I just might make this for thanksgiving,as the cranberries are one the things I’m responsible for. Your photos are fabulous. And for the record, I’m not so excited for turkey either–it is definitely an excuse to make all the delicious sides!

  2. Gillian says:

    Hi Hungry! Thanks for the photo compliment. Tastespotting.com declared my picture an “unflattering composition,” and declined to post it. Sigh. You can’t please everyone. As for the chutney: I was thinking some orange zest might be a good addition. Hope your chutney is a hit!

  3. Jill says:

    This is the first comment I’ve ever left on a blog. I can’t resist. I made this chutney last night and I’m not sure it will last until Thanksgiving. I was eating it with a spoon while it was still warm. It is absolutely delicious and I am going to serve it as an appetizer before the meal but first I am going to have it with my curried turkey burgers for dinner tonight. We’ll have to see how much is left by Thursday!

  4. Gillian says:

    I’m so glad you like it! Thanks for honoring my site with your very first blog comment. (I myself had never left a comment, until I started a blog and realized how much fun it is to get comments.)

  5. [...] Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Autumn Vegetables, Savory Turkey Gravy with Yorkshire Pudding, Cranberry Chutney, Pumpkin Cheesecake, and a crisp bottle (or two) of Pinot Noir to aide in tackling the preparation [...]

  6. Lauren says:

    Thanks for sharing – beautiful pics. I just made this and, for my tastes, I doubled the ginger, and did a little less sugar (made to taste, probably 1/4 cup less). Great balance of sweet and savory.

  7. LadyJayPee says:

    I made this today and it is SO good! You had me at “1/2tsp chili flakes”. Genius! :D I added 3/4c dried cherries, and liked that little addition as well. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  8. Gillian says:

    Lauren: More ginger is a good idea. Now that you mention it, I couldn’t taste the ginger quite enough for my tastes.

    LadyJay: The recipe I was inspired by didn’t include any heat, so the chili flakes were my innovation, because I like hot chutney. I also love dried cherries. Great idea! If you have access to a Trader Joes, they sell dried Montmorency cherries that are out of this world.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. Pamela Perry says:

    “unflattering composition” … that’s hilarious. I was thinking it looked a little like the flag of Mexico. :) Look forward to trying it.

  10. Skylar says:

    I’m hoping to make cranberry chutney for Christmas this year and your caption on foodgawker caught my eye: no more cranberry sauce shaped like a can. BINGO! That’s just what I was looking for and the recipe sounds great!
    I totally understand about the composition problem from Tastespotting. FG and TS never like the composition of my pictures, no matter how hard I try to make them perfect. *sigh* good to know I’m not the only one :)
    Merry Christmas!

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