Spicy Quince and Apple Chutney

I had to wrestle this month’s Can Jam challenge to the ground. I love the ingredients that the Cosmic Cowgirl chose for us: apples, pears, and quince. (Stephanie is also the proprietress of a beautiful new preserving business, Confituras, in Austin, Texas.) I’d had a big success with my Quince-Orange-Cardamom Marmalade a few weeks ago. In that post, I mentioned an astonishing quince chutney that I had tasted — an unexpected gift from the woman who had so generously given me the quince themselves.

I decided I wanted to try to make that same chutney myself.

The ingredients in this recipe are many, but good.

I don’t know where my first attempt went wrong, only that it did. It went terribly wrong. The original recipe — the one that Suzanne had started with — was a traditional British spicy quince chutney recipe written in metric terms: g, kg, ml, cm. She quadrupled that recipe and made some changes of her own. I liked her changes, so I decided to cut her quadrupled recipe in half. One can hardly begin to calculate the mistakes I could make in the course of so many conversions.

I do understand that the problem I created was way too much liquid for the amount of fruit in my pan. The first batch cooked down for hours — five or six, instead of the two suggested by the recipe. It held me hostage in my kitchen until 1 a.m. and the results weren’t pretty.

You can guess which spoonful was a big mistake. And I’ll guess which one you’d rather eat.

Almost every quince recipe I see mentions how the fruit cooks down to a lovely tawny or amber color — or colour. As you can see, the spoonful at the top of the photo above is neither. It is intense. I did get my father to taste it and take a jar home, but he’ll eat almost anything — and he loves me — so that’s hardly an endorsement. (When he came over I said, “I made something really awful last night and I want you to try it.”)

Watch out for these little guys. I used only two. The big one is mild and looks pretty in the jar.

Anyway. I had to try again. To make sure I had my head on straight, I followed the original recipe and I had Stewart double check my conversions. I did change the balance of fruit somewhat — using just a little more quince and little less apple than called for in the original instructions. It worked out fine and tastes great. It’s not quite as magical as the chutney that Suzanne sent over with the quince, but it hasn’t yet had time to mellow in the jar. I have a feeling it will migrate from “that’s really good” to excellent over the next few weeks.

So now that you know how not to do it, here’s a way that works:

Spicy Quince and Apple Chutney

2 pounds quince, peeled, cored, and chopped
4 pounds tart cooking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used safflower)
4 tablespoons mustard seeds (I used a mix of brown and yellow, but still, this is a lot of mustard seeds; next time I might use half this amount)
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 bulb garlic,  minced (that’s 1/2 head of garlic, not 1/2 clove)
3″ piece ginger, grated
2 small cayenne chili peppers, seeds removed, minced
1 or 2 large, mild red peppers, seeds removed, finely sliced (these are for beauty!)
2 cups cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt (I used sel gris)
2 1/3 cups light brown sugar

1. Peel, core, and chop your quince into chunks roughly 1-inch square. Put them in a pan and add the water. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until the quince is soft. (The original recipe said “about 90 minutes.” Mine took 20 minutes, so look alive!) Strain and set aside the quince chunks. (You may want to  keep the juice in the fridge for making jelly or something else quincey later on.)

2. While your quince is cooking, begin to prep your other ingredients: chop the apples (I tossed mine in a little bit of lemon juice — which is optional — and set them aside), measure out the spices, grate the ginger, mince the garlic, slice the peppers. Also measure out your vinegar, salt, and sugar. This will make what’s coming much easier!

3. Put the vegetable oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they start to pop. Then stir in the rest of the spices: black pepper, fenugreek seeds, cumin, and turmeric. Stir constantly for 2 minutes.

4. Add the garlic, ginger, and chiles and cook for 2 minutes more.

5. Add the apples and stir well to combine with the spices. Then add the vinegar, salt, sugar, and quince cubes to the pot.

Here’s what it all looks like before you start cooking it down.

6. Stir the chutney over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until the mixture thickens (about 2 hours). Stir occasionally and add a little water if the mixture looks like it’s getting too thick.

Prepare your jars. Do this after the chutney has been cooking down for a while. If you start earlier, they’ll be too cool by the time you need them.

7. When the chutney is ready, ladle it into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. (Be sure to do a good job of “bubbling” your jars — get in there with a little silicone spatula and release those air bubbles.) Process 10 minutes in a water-bath canner.

Yields at least 8 half-pint jars — see the note below.

Update: November 14, 2011

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I posted this recipe. I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned in the time since.

Safety. A couple of folks have asked for confirmation that this recipe is safe for water bath canning, because it includes some oil. My understanding has always been that a bit of oil isn’t a problem in a highly acidic recipe like this one, but to be extra-certain about it, I had the recipe checked out by both a master food preserver and a professional food scientist. They both gave it a thumbs up. However, this is a good place for a reminder that if you feel uncertain about the safety of a recipe, you should by all means check it out. One good way to do that is to contact your state’s co-operative extension office and ask to speak with a master food preserver. They are there to help you! If you don’t feel 100% comfortable with a canning recipe, pass it by.

Storage. We are just now opening the last jars of this chutney; it kept perfectly for a year. We used it in a variety of ways, but got particularly addicted to putting it on turkey burgers.

It yielded how many jars? Danielle at One Green Tomato recently made this recipe and her yield was an astonishing 14 jars! I often notice that yields differ from one recipe-maker to the next, but six jars is crazy different. I was happy with my chutney and she is happy with hers, so all I can say is that you might want to prep a few more jars than you think you’ll need.

Ribbon alert. This recipe won a third-place ribbon at the 2011 Marin County Fair. (For a list of all ribbon winners and links to recipes where available, see this post.)

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  • Reply julia November 15, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    I love everything about this chutney. I love all those amazing spices. I love how it looks. I'm sure once it settles down, it will be outrageous! So glad you shared this recipe, because I think I'm going to make it. Mm mm!

  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse November 15, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    You are one patient woman. It looks tasty!

  • Reply thecosmiccowgirl November 16, 2010 at 4:25 am

    that's quite a list of ingredients–can't wait to hear how it turns out!

  • Reply Gloria November 16, 2010 at 4:44 am

    My quinces are finished now so this one will have to wait until next year. Bet it mellows beautifully and will reward your efforts.

  • Reply Gwenneth Hindhaugh April 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I’m about to make it – sounds delicious – I just love anything to do with quinces – thank you so much. Gwen..Aust.

  • Reply Spicy Quince Apple Chutney | One Green Tomato November 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm

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  • Reply Helen February 29, 2012 at 1:09 am

    Spicy Quince and Apple chutney.

    I have just made this chutney and it is delicious. The quince flavour gets a bit lost in the apple, but really adds an extra zing to the apples. The spices are terrific and the chutney has a great bite and leaves a lovely after taste in your mouth. We love chutney and this chutney will be great with practically everything. This recipe is certainly a winner and will go in to my chutney file.

    • Reply Shae February 29, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      I so appreciate your feedback, Helen, and I’m glad to know you like the recipe. I do agree with you about the quince — it’s subordinate to the other flavors, but I think the overall combination of ingredients works well. Enjoy!

  • Reply Peta March 16, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Hi there, I noted Helen and Shae’s comments about the quince flavour being subordinate to the apple. My quince & apple trees right now are fully laden (not to mention all the quinces on the ground, because the damned cockies (cockatoos) have been having a picnic. So I’m looking for all the ways I can of cooking both.

    Figs will be my next problem. My 115 year old fig tree is also fully laden, but they’re still all green. But I digress… given the comment about the quince flavour not being so strong, I’m thinking I might try this with one extra quince and one less apple – or even just make a batch with no apple.

    Has anyone tried this?
    Well here goes…

    • Reply Shae March 21, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      I hanen’t tried that but would love to know how it turned out if you did. I think you’ve just got to experiment until you find the balance of flavors you like best. Lucky you, having a bounty of quince right now!

  • Reply Shae March 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Hi Jennifer: It’s the weight before you do anything to them. That’s how I interpreted it when I made it, anyway. Thanks for visiting. :-)

  • Reply Linda November 12, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Hi Shae and everyone. This recipe is absolutely amazing! I kept having to taste it to make sure I had it perfect – like about 25 times! It worked perfectly for me, I used half a cup less sugar because we don’t like things sweet round here and it also keeps the tartness of the membrillos (Quinces in Spanish). I was looking for something to make with Quinces because we have so many. Everyone on our street (central Spain) has a quince tree and you can’t even give away the jam. I am just going out to deliver the jars of your Quince Chutney to friends and neighbours, they are going to be stunned I’m sure. The rest of the site looks really exciting too. Thanks so much and kind regards, Linda

    • Reply Shae November 14, 2012 at 8:31 am

      Linda, so appreciating this comment from someone who lives on a street where every house has a quince tree! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving this feedback.

  • Reply Cauliflower Pie in the Sky – Hitchhiking to Heaven December 3, 2014 at 7:42 pm

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  • Reply Sue April 7, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Great recipe. I have a Smyrna quince in my small garden that produced an enormous amount this year. I have bottled lots to have on porridge with yoghurt during the year but I also made this chutney: it is divine! I used Pink Lady (Cripps Pink) apples and a little less sugar. Thank you very much for sharing it. I make a lot of chutneys and I am always on the look out for new recipes. The spicy base for this chutney is similar to a green mango chutney I make.
    Sue (Australia)

    • Reply Shae November 3, 2015 at 9:15 am

      Oh, I haven’t been here in a while and I’m sorry I missed your comment, Sue. Green mango chutney sounds amazing! I’m glad to know this recipe worked well for you.

  • Reply Tarini Naravane November 3, 2015 at 6:45 am

    Hi Shae,
    I write a blog about my cooking inspiration and as I have a lot of Quince in my garden currently I was looking for some recipies. The chutney with turkey burgers sounds amazing!

    • Reply Shae November 3, 2015 at 9:19 am

      Thanks very much for the link back from your recipe adaptation, Tarini. All of you commenters who have lovely quince in your gardens are making me jealous! I’m wondering whether it’s too late for me to head out to my favorite local forage-able tree that no one knows about. Maybe I’ll do that today. :-)

  • Reply Toni November 4, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    You said that next time you would reduce the number of mustard seeds. Is the resultant chutney fabulous with 4 tablespoons or 2 tablespoons of mustard seeds?

    • Reply Shae November 4, 2015 at 12:09 pm

      That’s such a good question, and the honest answer is that I went right on to other experiments and never did make this exact recipe again. Maybe pick an amount depending on whether you feel you are a more or less mustardy person? :-)

  • Reply Marci December 17, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    I have to share my experience making this delicious chutney. I had 5 quince that I found at our local fruit stand , and fortunately found your recipe. I decided that I wanted to grate the quince and apples using a food processor. When I saw how small the quince strips were, I didn’t want to cook them separately. So, I followed your recipe (fewer mustard seeds as suggested) but put the grated quince in with the apples and cooked the mixture together. It needed regular additions of water every 10 to 15 minutes but it is my hope that I did not have to sacrifice any quince flavour to the cooking water that is discarded. It tastes delicious. I only wish I had a jar of the original recipe to compare the taste.

    • Reply Shae January 7, 2018 at 8:59 am

      Hi Marci! I love it when comments are added to recipes that show successful variations. Thanks for taking the time to leave a note and sharing your modification. — Shae

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