Charming Chutney

Chutney is an important feature of traditional South African cooking, and particularly those South Africans with Dutch and Malay heritage.  It’s an essential accompaniment to curry as well as being an ingredient in a number of traditional recipes including bobotie.  As are apricots – in chutneys, in jam – and which are also eaten dried, stewed or fresh.

November is apricot season around our village. Lorries, laden with crates of golden, ripe fruit, make their way down the hill, past our house to the markets and/or to the canning factory in a nearby town.  Everywhere one looks, there are apricots, and so it was on Friday evening when we arrived at our “local”, also frequented by the farmers from hereabouts.  We were a little later than, usual and as we walked in, there was a crate of apricots with a pile of cardboard trays next to it, sitting on the tailgate of one of the regulars’ bakkies (pick-up).  We hadn’t long arrived, performed the necessary greeting rituals, and acquired our drinks when The Husband leaned over to tell me that Jan Boer had informed him that we had a tray of apricots to take home.

“O koek!” I thought (as they say in the local lingo), “that’s a very lot of apricots for just two of us!”

Last year, we also had the fortune to be given a load of apricots.  Those I preserved in syrup – not as successfully as I would have liked.

So, with a plentiful stock of preserved apricots on hand, I figured I’d try to make chutney.  I also had to move smartly because apricots, do not keep well, particularly if they are ripe and ready to eat – as these were.

Not common: chutney with fresh fruit

I consulted my collection of recipe books, only to discover that none had a recipe for a chutney with fresh apricots.  So I had to invoke GoG (Good old Google) and see what I could find out.  Although  I did find a few recipes, I wasn’t entirely sold on some of the spice combinations.  What was common to all the recipes, including in the hard copy oracles I had consulted, was the ratio of fruit to sugar and vinegar.  I could also get a sense of the requisite quantity of spices.

The next step was to determine whether the chutney would have an Indian or Malay inclination.  I consulted The Husband;  we settled for the latter which is characterised by ginger, coriander, fennel, cumin and garlic.

The result:  fantastic!

I was thrilled to bits with not just the flavour, but also the colour and consistency.

For once, I recorded what I did at every step of the way.  In my notebook.  It’s not a journal, technically, as it’s the book in which I often write notes and ideas for blog posts.

Apricot Chutney

The ingredients are simple, fresth apricots, sugar, vinegar and spices.

For each kilogram or part, also the following

1 onion
1 clove of garlic
15g of fresh, grated ginger
1 teaspoon each of yellow and/or black mustard and fennel seeds
½ teaspoon each of ground coriander and cumin
a sprinkling of coarse salt (do not add too much salt – the proverbial pinch is really all it takes!)


All chutneys have fruit, sugar and vinegar in the ratio of 2 fruit to 1 each of vinegar and sugar.  Some recipes call for granulated, brown or molasses sugar, and others for spirit, white wine or cider vinegar.  I had to use what I had available in sufficient quantities and settled for ordinary granulated (white) sugar and the vinegar was a combination of apple cider and white spirit vinegar (roughly 1/ apple cider vinegar).

What to do

Pip the apricots; peel the onions and garlic, and roughly chop.  Blitz in the food processor in batches, transferring each to a large stock/jam pot.

Add the sugar and vinegar and stir, and finally, add the spices.

Bring to the boil, stirring from time to time to make sure that the mixture does not catch and burn on the bottom of the pan.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 2½ to 3 hours, continuing to stir, until it has reduced, the consistency is chutney-like and the mixture is a deep, rich colour.

Bottle, hot, in sterilised jars.

The flavour

The flavour surprised and delighted us:  neither The Husband nor I, are fond of a sweet chutney and the apricot chutneys I remember tasting have tended towards being too sweet.  This is has a piquant, warm spicy flavour without serious heat.  I might, with another batch, consider adding some chilli for a chutney with a bit more bite.

So charmed were we both with this apricot chutney, that we tried it with our braai and boerewors (spicy South African sausage) that evening.  We decided that it will make a good accompaniment to not only the traditional fare, but also cheese, ham and turkey.  It’s likely, therefore, to be gracing our Christmas table this year.

Save a printable version of the recipe here.

First published on Fiona’s Favourites WordPress blog in 2015 and updated in November 2020.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

I am doing my best to post every day for November as part of @traciyork’s twice yearly #HiveBloPoMo challenge. This is my third attempt. All my posts are to the the Hive blockchain, but not all from WordPress.  Details about the challenge (on the blockchain) are here and on WordPress, here.

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And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
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    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
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Windfalls and Wondrous Words

Peach Chutney - recipe - Fiona's Favourites

I have mentioned before that words fascinate me.  With my recent foray into making chutney, when The Husband and I were discussing what should go on the label of Jan Boer’s special bottle, he asked if I was going to use the Afrikaans word for chutney, blatjang.  What ultimately went on the label is not important, but it did set me wondering.  Both English and Dutch, and therefore also Afrikaans, are Indo-European languages, so the roots of some words are common.  Often, words are similar, like “day” and “dag”;  “light” and “lig”; and “lemon” which, in Afrikaans is “suurlemoen” (direct translation:  sour lemon).

I discovered, nearly 20 years ago, on a trip to Mallorca, that I could get by, in the Old City of Palma, with less than rudimentary Spanish and Afrikaans to  buy spices, vegetables and fruit:  “pomelo” is the Afrikaans word for grapefruit.  I was very proud of myself when, as a thank you to my host, I was able to successfully shop for the necessary spices and other bits and bobs to make a traditional South African supper of bobotie, boereboontjies and geelrys with melktert for dessert*.

There were many Spanish words I could understand when I saw them written.  For example, furniture shops:  their names included “meubles” which is the same spelling as the Afrikaans word for furniture.

So where did “blatjang” come from?

Before I had satisfied my curiosity, and ending our week in the usual way, at the local pub, Jan Boer (yes, he of apricot fame), sent us home with another tray piled with fruit.  This time, yellow cling peaches.

Windfalls.  They really were.  In every sense.

This summer, the weather has been badly out of kilter:  very little wind in November and December, but some howling gales last month.  With equally unseasonally high temperatures, the farmers haven’t been thrilled and when the harvest is underway, and the wind howls, it can wreak havoc with ripening fruit.

Too Scottish to look a gift-horse in the mouth (with no apologies for the mixed metaphors), something had to be done.  Some were stewed:  summer comfort food.  Retro peaches and custard.

Peach chutney - recipe - Fiona's Favourites

The peaches provided The Husband with something sweet while I was away…

The rest were mostly made into chutney – in some ways a very different process from apricot chutney because of the nature of the fruit:  peaches are furry;  their pips are not easy to liberate and I had decided two other things:  a recipe that didn’t necessitate a visit to the shops meant no dried fruit.  Secondly, it should not have the same spice profile as the apricot chutney.

“Un-furring” the peaches

The first task was to try to “un-fur” the peaches.  Standard instructions for doing this is very similar to those for skinning tomatoes with the added step of blanching them in iced water after their boiling plunge.

Peach chutney - recipe - Fiona's Favourites

Well, as my old Dad would have said, that was a good game, played slow: even with The Husband’s help, those skins were not very obliging.  It wasn’t only the pips that clung to those peaches!  Contrary to all the “destructions” contained on websites and in recipe books, the skins did not just slip off.

After cogitating on this, I came to the conclusion that if the skin clung to that extent, the chutney wouldn’t be contaminated by awful bits of stringy epidermal tissue, and the worst that could happen was that the peach bits would have a bit of extra texture.

Skinning abandoned, the peaches were “segmented” and added to the pot with the other ingredients.


And cooked.  And cooked.

Peach chutney

For this batch:

2kg peaches, pipped (only half were peeled)Peach chutney - recipe - Fiona's Favourites
800g sugar
800ml wine vinegar (combination of red and mostly white because that’s what I had)
35g fresh ginger, chopped
6 onions (white), halved and thinly sliced
12 cardamom pods, lightly cracked
6 jalapeño chillies, thinly sliced

Put all the ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot (stainless steel or enamel) over a medium heat.  Stir until the sugar has dissolved and simmer, stirring from time to time until the peaches are soft and translucent.  This will take an hour to an hour and a half.  After about half of the time, keep an eye on it and stir more frequently so that the chutney doesn’t catch and burn.  Pot in sterilised jars.

Peach Chutney - recipe - Fiona's Favourites

In addition to the different flavour profile from the apricot chutney, peach chutney is chunkier and sweeter which is offset by the chillies.

Oh, and If you’d like a printable version of the recipe, you can download it here.  When you do, buy me a coffee?

Back to the words

Chutney bottled, I returned to my word search.  It turns out that in 19th century South Africa, “blatjang” (pronounced blutchung) had two meanings:  a condiment and a specific dish (sadly, none of my research revealed what that specific dish might have been unless it was merely an idiomatic expression).  The condiment blatjang is described as a relish made from dried chillies and dried apricots, stewed in vinegar.

Regardless of these two meanings, the sources all agree that the word crept into the Dutch and therefore, also Afrikaans, via Malaysia and Indonesia.

As I worked through the various sources, thinking about the spice trade and the rise (or fall) of the Dutch and English as colonial powers, it all fell into place.  The Dutch East India Company centred on Indonesia and had a presence in Cape Town to supply passing ships with essential vittles.  It all makes sense, especially with the strong influence in the Cape from the Malay slaves who not only brought their cuisine, but also their language to the Cape, profoundly influencing the development of Afrikaans from the original Dutch.

Chutney, on the other hand, is an Anglicisation of a Hindi word: “chatni”, which means “to lick”, and which referred to side dishes made of fruit. These, of course, included spices.  The word also seems to have emerged in English in the 19th century and as the English so often do, they made these dishes their own by “pickling” the relishes with vinegar, and calling them “chutney”.

In Afrikaans, blatjang is now accepted as what we now understand in English as chutney, which is as I discovered when I was looking for a recipe for the apricot chutney, is a relish made with fruit, spices and vinegar – with or without chillies and/or onions.

Similarly, with the British Empire, the Indian Raj, and curry having become, in the minds of some, England’s national dish, makes the etymology of chutney absurdly obvious.

If you’re interested

Here is a list of some of the websites I visited in this wondrous word search.

* bobotie is a spiced mince with an egg custard topping
boereboontjies – literal translation is “farmer’s beans” and consists of a stew of tomatoes, onion and green beans and, traditionally with a couple of shin bones thrown in.  Among the party that evening were vegetarians, so the meat was omitted
geelrys or yellow rice is cooked with turmeric, cinnamon and sultanas
melktert – a baked custard tart

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

    • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

    • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink
    • I also share my occasional Instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr. On your phone, click here or on the icon, and give it a go.