Green tomato chutney is a classic British condiment with Indian roots that’s as popular in the American South as it is anywhere else. Keep reading to find out what it is, how it came to be, and, more importantly, how to make it yourself.
What is green tomato chutney?
Chutney comes from the Indian word chatni, which means crushed. In the colonial era, British soldiers, traders, civil servants, and their families developed a taste for the subcontinent’s unique flavours. That included curries, of course, but also Indian fruit preserves – chutneys – which tasted drastically different but weren’t so far removed from the jams and marmalades of Europe.
Tomatoes had recently arrived in India from the Americas and it wasn’t long before they became an integral part of Indian cuisine, including tomato chutneys. In the significantly less sunny climate of Britain, however, it was difficult to grow fully ripe tomatoes. However, it turned out the unripe green ones made for quite a delicious chutney.
This proved fruitful (pardon the pun) for those British citizens whose colonial duties took them from country to country and continent to continent, from colonies in Asia to Africa to the Americas and Caribbean. They took their love of chutney with them, and where they couldn’t find the ingredients to make Indian chutneys, they made new concoctions from what was available.
Consequently, there is no single correct way of making green tomato chutney, but the myriad recipes do have some common ingredients. The first is green tomatoes, obviously. Then you need vinegar and a sweetener – usually sugar – to balance the vinegar’s acidity.
Onions are commonly used too, but not always. Then, for a fruitier chutney, you’ll often find raisins or apples. After that, it’s more or less a complete free-for-all, with the most talented chefs tweaking their recipe to best complement specific dishes, from grilled chicken to rice and beans to cheese on toast.
Green tomato chutney recipe
The following are essential for ensuring your chutney resists contamination and, consequently, keeps for longer:
- Stainless steel pan
- Clean and sterilised jars
- 1 kg (2.2 lbs) green tomatoes (skinning is optional)
- 1 kg (2.2 lbs) red onions
- 150 g (5.2 oz) raisins
- 3 garlic cloves
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 500 g (17.5 oz) brown sugar
- 1 litre (32 fl oz) malt vinegar
- Roughly chop the tomatoes, onions and raisins into chunks. Mince the garlic as finely as possible.
- Place all chopped fruits and vegetables, minced garlic, and all the other ingredients into your stainless steel pan. Over a high heat, bring the pan to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Simmer the ingredients uncovered, stirring regularly, until reduced to a thick, brown mixture. This can take anywhere between one to three hours, so remember to keep an eye on it.
- Warm the sterilised jars. (This will ensure they don’t crack. You can even do this by steaming them over the chutney as it cooks.)
- Ladle the chutney into the jars and seal. Allow to cool off before refrigerating, or continue onto the steps outlined below if you want to keep unopened jars of the chutney for longer periods of time.
How long will our Green Tomato Chutney Keep?
If preserved well in properly sterilised jars, your chutney should last for a couple of weeks, however, if you’re not confident in your sterilising, we’d recommend playing it safe and consuming the chutney within a week. But if that doesn’t sound like something you can do, or if you simply want to make a larger batch and store some jars for a longer period of time, try the following techniques:
Oil preservation technique
This technique is incredibly easy, and will extend the life of your chutney for at least a week. Simply ensure the surface of the chutney is fully covered with vegetable oil before you seal the jars. This will stop the chutney from oxidising.
Water-bath canning technique
This technique will ensure that your jars are properly sterilised, sealed, and capable of preserving your chutney for at least a year before opening. Once open, you can revert to the oil preservation method above.
(Note that you will need to be using sturdy, heat-proof jars for this technique. If you have proper preserving jars, then you’ll be covered. It is not recommended to reuse supermarket jars for this.)
- Fill a tall pan with water and place a wire rack at the bottom. Lower the jars into the pan, ensuring that they don’t touch and that their tops are covered by at least a couple of centimetres (roughly an inch).
- Bring the water-bath to a rolling boil and leave the jars to boil for 10 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and lift the jars out of the water vertically. You will need to ensure you have a tool that allows you to do this safely, such as a jar lifter.
- Leave the jars on the counter for at least 12 hours. The lids will seal tightly as the chutney cools.
- Store the jars in a dark cupboard and transfer them to the refrigerator once opened.
What to eat green tomato chutney with?
This green tomato chutney works great as a condiment with:
- Indian food, especially with poppadoms or rotis
- Stirred into rice, couscous, or grains to make a quick and simple meal
- Sandwiches and burgers
- Cheese plates
You can even dilute it with a little olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar to make a delicious salad dressing or meat marinade.