Jamaican Mango Chutney
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Jamaican mango chutney is the relish that turned me on to the beauty of chutney. It answered the question for me, what is the point of chutney, exactly?
But first a note about some larger meanings of this item.
It didn’t happen without a struggle, but Jamaica ended slavery in 1838, nearly three decades earlier than the US. To fill the labor shortage left by the end of forced servitude, immigrants and indentured servants began arriving from other British colonial regions, including India and China. These newcomers, coming from the homelands of some of the most sophisticated, comprehensive and ancient culinary traditions the world has ever known, helped to shape Jamaican culture and cuisine.
The Indians, mostly from the region around Mumbai, informed Jamaican cookery with their spice wizardry: kaleidoscopic combinations of assertive, potentially dissonant flavors that yield perfectly harmonious new effects, both bold and subtle. These masters of flavor incorporated native ingredients they encountered — like the magical allspice — into their work, and a distinctively Jamaican world of curries and chutneys was born.
That tradition is well represented by mango chutney, a pungent condiment made with diced mangoes, golden and dark raisins, ginger, Scotch bonnet pepper, garlic, and good old sugar, long one of the pillars of the Carribbean economy (for better or for worse).
Spicy and sweet, a couple of tablespoons of this bright-tasting relish makes a perfect counterpart to my favorite recipe for smoky Jamaican jerk pork and pineapple skewers.
This mango chutney is also wonderful with absolutely any grilled dish, as well as roast ham or scrambled eggs, and over green salad.
I interpolated between two different recipes to come up with this one. One was a recipe from Cooking the Carribean Way by Mary Slater (Hippocrene Books, 1965), which I assume to have more traditional elements, and the one from a book published over 30 years later (Jamaican Cooking: 140 roadside and homestyle recipes, by Lucinda Scala Quinn, Macmillan USA, New York, 1997).
I used the cane vinegar, as in Slater, which has a pleasant, though faint, molasses aroma. I used white sugar, not brown, per Quinn. I didn’t use any of Quinn’s sweet red peppers, but I did use Quinn’s garlic. Per Slater, I didn’t use salt. The instructions I used hew closer to Slater’s 1965 recipe than to Quinn’s newer one.
8 lb. greenish mangoes (Yield after peeled and pitted: 4 lb. 5 oz.)
1 1/2 bottles naturally fermented cane vinegar*
2 pounds sugar
1 ounce habanero, minced
4 ounce ginger, diced
1 lb. dark raisins
1 lb. golden raisins
4 cloves garlic
* If you can’t find cane vinegar, add a tablespoon of molasses to the recipe.
Boil mangoes with a little water until tender. Meanwhile, combine one bottle vinegar and the sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer until syrupy. Moisten ginger, garlic and chillies with remaining vinegar. Stir into the syrup. Add raisins and cooked mangoes. Boil for 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool. Store in jars or plastic containers in refrigerator for up to six months, or frozen indefinitely. The flavor mellows and deepens after a few weeks.
Can this in canning jars, following a standard canning method.