I know: I’m all down with the late-season tomato recipes this year, right? Actually, I made this one a few weeks ago, with the very last of my bushel of tomatoes from Fishkill Farms (and a couple of pounds very kindly gifted to us from Tai’s boss‘ garden), but I wanted to let it sit on the shelf for a while before I cracked a jar and tasted it. And my, does it smell amazing when you pop open that jar: the fennel, the mustard, the cumin; they smack you in the face, in a good way, and you start salivating before you even take a bite.
This is a sweet chutney (a little too sweet for my tastes, honestly; next time I will probably reduce the sugar a bit), so the comparison to ketchup is natural. In fact, I can see it taking the place of ketchup on a burger, or fries, but to me it’s much more: delicious with a sharp farmstead cheese and crusty sourdough bread, I could also see it dolloped with goat cheese in a vegetable tart, or swirled into tomato soup, beans or vegetable stew for a sweet-spicy kick.
The pan-roast of the whole spices in olive oil smells so incredible that I want to find ways to use this spice mix in other recipes; or, if I had the freezer space, I would freeze a bunch of tomatoes now and make small batches of this chutney all winter long, simply so I can smell it simmering on the stove all day long. Or, you know: I could just pop open another jar.
Inspired by Spicy Tomato Chutney at Becks & Posh
Spicy Indian Tomato Chutney
- 5 lbs tomatoes, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
- 3 small orange sweet peppers, diced (about ½ cup)
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp brown mustard seeds
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- about 12 tiny dried red chilis (pequins), stemmed and chopped
- ½ – 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ cups raw sugar (organic turbinado), or less: see Options below
- Quarter the first 4 lbs of tomatoes into a large, heavy stockpot or Dutch oven, crushing lightly to reduce juices. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tomatoes are very soft and breaking down, about 30 – 45 minutes. Run softened tomatoes through a food mill (medium disk) to remove skins, some seeds and cores. Alternatively, core, peel and chop tomatoes by hand, purée, and proceed with the next step.
- Return tomato purée to the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until volume is reduced by about half (or purée achieves the consistency of a thin tomato sauce), anywhere from 1 – 4 hours. Core and chop remaining 1 lb tomatoes (no need to peel); add to pot with onion, peppers and vinegar.
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil until shimmering; add mustard, fennel, cumin, dried chiles and cayenne pepper. Mix well; cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until fragrant and cumin seeds are popping. Allow to cool slightly, then carefully add hot oil + spices to the tomato mixture (tomatoes will bubble & spit). Add sugar. Stir to mix and continue to simmer chutney over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the desired consistency (about the texture of a cooked restaurant salsa). Taste, and adjust flavorings as necessary, remembering that the chutney will age & mellow on the shelf.
- Fill hot jars to ½-inch head space. Bubble jars, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Yields about 4 ½ cups of a thick chutney. Recipe can easily be doubled if you have a large (8+ quart), wide pot.
- The savvy canner may notice that while I reduced the amount of olive oil (from 8 to 2 tbsp) in the original recipe, I also reduced the vinegar and added in non-acidic onion & peppers, usually a canning safety no-no. I wasn’t able to find a published tomato chutney recipe with my ingredient proportions, but there are plenty of salsa recipes (including this one) that convince me that this ratio of acidic to non-acidic ingredients is perfectly safe. In addition, I measured the pH of the final product, once when going into jars, and again after a 3-week rest on the shelf: pH = 4.0 each time.
- Although this is meant to be a sweet chutney, I found it a bit too sweet: next time I would reduce the sugar, maybe starting with ½ cup and going up from there. The sweetness of tomatoes varies wildly with variety, weather, growing season, etc.: the best thing to do is taste and adjust.
- I used ½ tsp cayenne pepper but think it could use more kick: I would increase it to 1 tsp next time.
- I used all red tomatoes in this version, some paste and some beefsteak varieties, but I think that this recipe is made for a variety of gorgeous garden tomatoes, especially as you include the skins of the last 1 pound. Yellow, purple, brown, even cherry tomatoes would work well here.
- There’s something soothing and lovely about toasting whole spices in oil: they really transform. I think this would be a great mid-winter project on a snowy afternoon, with some of the last-of-the-garden tomatoes that you stuck in the back of the freezer, or even a jar or two of crushed tomatoes that need using up. You can easily halve the recipe and stick a pint jar of chutney in the fridge, no muss, no fuss.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.
Summer. Or year-round if you want to start with canned or frozen tomatoes.