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Cranberry Chutney

Last year around Thanksgiving when I was working at the restaurant, our chef asked me to make something like 30 quarts of cranberry sauce.

We were doing Thanksgiving dinner to go, and about 50 people placed orders for a complete Thanksgiving dinner (each getting half a turkey and a pint of cranberry sauce, among other things). One of the many challenges of working in a restaurant kitchen is that you sometimes get asked to do things without warning--things that are not on your prep list. This can be invigorating or terrifying depending on how you look at it. It's real-life, flying by the seat of your pants cooking.

Cranberry sauce isn't difficult to make, but I was told to make it "interesting," and then there was the bit about 30 quarts, which is just a lot of cranberry sauce no matter how you look at it.

The first thing that came to mind was chutney. Chutneys are easy to make once you get the basic principles down: Fruit + Onion, garlic, ginger + Spices + Vinegar + Sugar = Chutney. There are enough recipes for chutney to make a cook dizzy, but they're really forgiving and can easily be done to taste (remembering, always, that it's easier to add more of something than to compensate for adding too much).

I had been making apple chutney for the cheese plate, so it was a quick jump to cranberry-apple chutney. This recipe is a rendition of the one I made last year. It's not shockingly different from normal cranberry sauce, but it has a lovely savory twang. Feel free to use fresh chiles instead of red pepper flakes, and add in your favorite spices. 

Other cranberry goodness you might enjoy: Spiced Cranberry Sauce, Whole Cranberry Sauce with Dijon and Walnuts, Cranberry Curd Bars

Cranberry Chutney
Makes about 1 quart

Warm in a saucepan over medium heat:
           2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Add and sauté until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes:
           1 small onion, finely chopped
Add and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes:
           3 garlic cloves, minced
           1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
           1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
           1 teaspoon mustard seeds
           1 teaspoon ground coriander
Stir and allow to toast briefly, about 2 minutes more.
           1 pound fresh cranberries
           1 small green apple, finely diced

           3/4 cup sugar
           1/2 cup cider vinegar
           1/3 cup golden raisins
           1 teaspoon salt
Let the cranberries cook down until the mixture is fairly dry. When you scoop up a spoonful, it should be mounded on the spoon, not runny.
Cool completely and refrigerate.

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