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Microwave . . .

Cooking Chutney Has Changed

September 17, 1987|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN | Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving

As a condiment, chutney may sound exotic, but it's just a good-tasting combination of fruits and vegetables, preserved with spices and boiled until mellow and well blended. Chutney came to our shores in Colonial days via the "India trade" as an accompaniment to fragrant Indian curries. The original chutneys were mysterious combinations of mangoes, papayas, citron, kumquats, ginger root and other ingredients unique to the Indian climate.

Long ago, resourceful American cooks adapted chutney to our bountiful produce. They made peach, pear, apple and green tomato chutney at harvest time. Today, you can buy chutneys made from cherries, figs, dates, eggplants, plum, blueberries, cranberries, carrots and jalapeno chiles.

Easily Adapted to Microwave

You can make chutney, too, and with a microwave it's easy to do. Unlike the original chutneys, microwave chutneys don't require hours of slow simmering and constant worrying that the sweet, thick mixture will stick to the bottom of the pan and taste burned. Microwave energy cooks chutney more evenly than the heat energy on a stove top.

Served fresh, chutneys make wonderful mealtime accompaniments for roasted or barbecued meats. Like any fruit or vegetable mixture, they should be stored in the refrigerator. Or, if you want to preserve them for later, you can pack them in canning jars--an especially good idea if you're going to give them as gifts during the winter holiday season.

To preserve chutney in canning jars, you must first be sure that both the jars and lids are freshly washed and hot (you don't need to scald them) and you must use new seals (the top part of the two-piece lid). Fill the jars to about half an inch from the top with the boiling hot mixture and adjust the two-piece lid firmly. Carefully lower the jars into a large pot of boiling water. There should be enough water to cover two inches above the tops of the jars. Cover and return to a boil for 10 minutes. After removing from the water, let the jars stand undisturbed for 10 to 12 hours.

Hot Water Bath Required

Many people want to know if they can sterilize canning jars, alone or filled with food, in the microwave. The answer is no. To ensure that each jar is evenly sterilized, both before and after filling, you need the boiling water bath. It's more efficient to boil very large amounts of water on the stove top. Using a hot water bath on the stove top also allows you to microwave the relish while you're initially heating the water, so you save on total cooking time.

These two chutneys were created especially for the microwave. Both are full-flavored and delicious.

This first one has a sweet, somewhat delicate taste that goes well with beef, lamb and chicken. Its "sour" accent is created by fresh lemon rather than vinegar.

TOMATO-CUMIN CHUTNEY

1 large thick-skinned lemon, seeded, quartered and thinly sliced

2 pounds firm tomatoes, cored, quartered and sliced crosswise

1 cup finely chopped onions

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1 cup raisins

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/4 teaspoon crumbled crushed dried red chiles

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon cold water

Place lemon pieces in 3-quart microwave-safe casserole. Microwave at HIGH (100% power) 3 to 4 minutes until skin is tender when pierced with fork.

Add tomatoes, onions, celery, raisins, sugar, cumin seeds, nutmeg, mustard seeds and chiles. Microwave at HIGH 14 to 17 minutes, stirring every 4 minutes, until fruits and vegetables have softened. (If pierced with fork, celery may still have slightly firm texture).

In small cup or bowl, dissolve cornstarch in cold water. Stir into chutney until mixture begins to thicken and become clear. Microwave 2 to 4 more minutes, until chutney is thickened and clear and no starchy taste remains.

Ladle into clean, hot half-pint jars, leaving about 1/2-inch head space. Wipe jar rims and adjust clean two-piece lids firmly. Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes (start timing after water has come to boil). Makes about 6 half-pint jars.

Note: Make thicker chutney by doubling cornstarch. Try 1 tablespoon (dissolved) first, before adding more.

This chutney has a definite "tang" that goes well with ham, sausages and hamburgers. It's also an interesting appetizer relish. If you have the pineapples mechanically peeled and cored at the supermarket, you will need to buy two in order to have enough fruit for this recipe.

PINEAPPLE PICCALILLI CHUTNEY

4 cups diced fresh pineapple

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups vinegar

1 cup raisins

1 cup thinly sliced onions

1 cup coarsely chopped green peppers

1/2 cup chopped pimiento

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons cold water

Place pineapple, sugar, vinegar, raisins, onions, green peppers, pimiento, salt, curry powder, cayenne and garlic in 3-quart microwave-safe casserole. Stir to blend thoroughly. Microwave at HIGH (100% power) 20 to 24 minutes, stirring every 8 minutes, until all ingredients have boiled and softened.

In small cup or bowl, dissolve cornstarch in cold water. Stir into chutney until mixture begins to thicken and becomes clear. Microwave 4 to 6 more minutes, until chutney is thickened and clear and no starchy taste remains.

Ladle into clean, hot half-pint jars, leaving about 1/2-inch head space. Wipe rims, then adjust clean two-piece lids firmly. Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes (start timing after water comes to a boil). Makes about 7 half-pint jars.

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