Caramelized Onion and Apple Chutney

This month for the Tigress’s Can Jam, we were asked to get down and dirty with the allium family: onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, scalllions, and their ilk. Except for the few onions I throw in with my pickles, I’ve never preserved alliums before. But I’ve been seeing a lot of mighty fine looking chutneys lately, so I took this as an opportunity to try one out.

I hunted until I found a recipe that I liked — one that offers basic guidelines (do XYZ and then add stuff you like) rather than prescribing rigid rules. It came from, where they spell “caramelized” the way my London relatives would say is proper: “caramelised,” if you please. One way or the other, I found out that it’s what happens during cooking when natural sugars release the wonderful sweet, nutty flavor and burnished color we associate with caramel.

The first time you see this many chopped onions in one place, it can make you nervous. I definitely didn’t feel the same fondness for my main ingredient as I do for, say, blackberries. But they have their own pungent charm.

I eventually got all the ingredients settled nicely into the pot, where they began cooking . . . and cooking . . . and cooking. Chutney has to simmer down for a good long while. Nearly two hours for this recipe. The good news was that I didn’t have to stand there stirring the whole time. Of course, you never want to wander away from the stove for long, but you can easily work on something else nearby and make regular passes to stir and check up on your creation.

The original recipe says that, after canning, chutney should be left alone for 4-6 weeks to mature and fully develop its flavors, but dang, this is good right now. And our house smells amazing. Here’s the “stuff I liked” today:

Caramelized Onion and Apple Chutney

6 large red onions
3 apples
4 cloves garlic
3 cups golden balsamic vinegar
3 cups brown sugar
3 bay leaves
20 crushed peppercorns
1 teaspoon cloves

Chop the onions as fine as you like and cook them in a little oil until they’re soft. Add them, along with everything else, to your big, nonreactive, heavy-bottomed cooking pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and then down to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the onions are translucent and the liquid has nearly evaporated. This may take as long as two hours.

I learned a neat trick for determining whether your chutney is done. It comes from Thane Prince’s, Jellies, Jams & Chutneys. (I seem to be fully on-board with the Brits for this recipe.) Drag a wooden spoon through the mixture, across the bottom of the pan. If it leaves a clear path, with only a little liquid running back, you’re all set.

I nearly overcooked the whole batch trying to get this photo, spoon in one hand, camera in the other . . . but it should look pretty much like this:

When jarring this recipe, you’ll notice lots and lots of air bubbles. I worked around the sides with my little spatula to release them. I allowed 1/2 inch of head space and processed 15 minutes. Yielded six half-pints

Alliums! What’s next?

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  • Reply laundryetc March 11, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Your chutney looks just perfect. Onion marmalade and chutney goes with just about anything, so it is always good to have a stock of it.

  • Reply Shae March 11, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Laundryetc, that means a lot, coming from across the pond. Beautiful preserves and wonderful photos on your blog. Love the geese!

  • Reply ap269 March 13, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    This looks really good!

  • Reply Shae March 13, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Ap269: Thank you! And your red onion marmalade looks beautiful, even if it wasn't a taste thrill for the entire family . . .

  • Reply Hot Belly Mama August 26, 2010 at 1:51 am

    I used apple cider vinegar instead as that is what I had on hand. Will that work okay?

  • Reply Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven August 26, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Hot Belly Mama, I believe that as long as the acidity of your vinegar is at least 5%, you can substitute any kind. Different vinegars will of course influence the taste. The golden balsamic is very sweet and mellow. Apple cider vinegar may be a little more harsh. I'd love to know how it turns out!

  • Reply carmelized onion and apple chutney/jam… « The Urban Pocketknife November 2, 2011 at 8:10 am

    […] I did find a good looking recipe from Hitchhiking to Heaven, the vinegar content was quite high in comparison to most recipes and I made sure to use some tart […]

  • Reply Apple Onion Spicy Chutney « 30 Bucks a Week October 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm

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  • Reply Nigel Malkin July 10, 2014 at 2:07 am

    Hi. Do you chop, crush or leave whole the garlic, also crush or leave whole the
    pepper corns? Thanks

    • Reply Shae July 10, 2014 at 10:15 am

      Hi Nigel: I haven’t made this for quite a while. As it says, the peppercorns should be crushed. I might roughly chop the garlic. Hope you enjoy it! ~ Shae

  • Reply Meg L October 14, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Hi! This recipe is just what I’ve been hunting for! How much does this make? I have loads of apples that need to be used up! Thanks!

    • Reply Shae October 14, 2014 at 11:33 am

      Hi Meg: My notes above say six half-pint jars. I only ever made this that one time. Let me know how it goes if you try it!

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