Friday, July 26, 2013

Orange-cumin chutney and chutney cheese spread

I'm doing a lot more canning this summer than in past years. Partly because the wee orchard has finally started bearing fruit (thank you, fertilizer) and partly because I'm cooking along with Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'Em Up Fruit as part of the From Scratch Club's virtual book club.

Our latest assignment topic was blackberries, raspberries and oranges. Now, you know The Ninj tries to cook and eat locally as much as possible but, given that I'm certain I'll never find an orange grown in Vermont, I decided to stray and buy some oranges to make one of Sherri's chutneys. (I also made a great mixed berry jam, but that's a discussion for another post.)

I'm glad I did because the chutney inspired perhaps one of the most hilarious conversations ever. Let me set the scene for you:
I'm jammin' up some chutney in the kitchen and Mr. Ninj comes into the house from the garage.

Mr. Ninj: "Wow, it smells good in here. Whatcha making?"
Me: "Orange cumin chutney."
Mr. Ninj: "ORANGE HUMAN CHUTNEY?????????????!!!!!!!" (yes, shrieking)
Me: "Yes. Orange human chutney. It's like Soilant Green but much tastier."
Dudes, I am never that quick with a witty comeback! 

So of course we now refer to it only as Orange-Human Chutney. (Sorry, Sherri.) I usually make jar labels for my canned goods: I can't wait to make that one.

Human content aside, I'm digging this chutney. First of all, on its own, it doesn't really taste all that citrusy but the oranges do give it some good firmness. The spice blend is excellent with a very definite fall flavor. It will be a beautiful accompaniment to roast pork or chicken.

But this chutney's true calling is as an ingredient in Sherri's companion "use it up" recipe for Chutney Cheese Spread. Oooh la la, this stuff is like cocktail party crack! It is reminiscent of the ubiquitous 1970s cheese ball (served with Ritz crackers, no doubt) but much classier. When the chutney is combined with some good cheddar cheese and a little cream cheese, the citrus flavor really shines through. Slightly sweet, slightly nutty, this cheese spread is highly addictive.

Surely you've got a summer gathering coming up that could use an appetizer that comes complete with its own witty little story:

Orange Human Chutney Cheese Spread anyone?

Orange-Cumin Chutney (both recipes from Sherri Brooks' Put 'Em Up Fruit)

2 pounds oranges
kosher salt
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup dried cherries and/or cranberries (or both)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground human -- whoops, I mean CUMIN
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cinnamon stick

Zest the oranges and mince the peel. Toss the zest with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, cover and let sit overnight to soften. (Keep the zested oranges!)

Rinse the softened zest in a strainer and put into a large pot (5-6 quart is good). Peel and segment the oranges and coarsely chop (remove any stray seeds), then add them to the pot. Add all the remaining ingredients plus another 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Give it all a good stir then slowly bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick. Spoon chutney into hot half-pint jars and seal.

Process jars for 15 minutes using the waterbath canning method (follow whatever method you normally use, I'm not including full instructions here). Cool, check seals and store for up to 1 year.

Chutney Cheese Spread

4 ounces reduced-fat creamed cheese, softened
4 ounces Orange-Cumin Chutney
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (I used Cabot's Seriously Sharp)

Combine creamed cheese and the chutney in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the cheddar cheese and pulse until combined. Pack the spread into a bowl or container and refrigerate a few hours before serving.


  1. OMG, that's hysterical. You guys need your own TV show. Clearly Mr. Ninj is the straight man.

  2. BTW, I can't lie, I know I will never in a million years ever make that chutney, but I would make that spread using some premade chutney. That sounds really yummy.

    1. That's OK, too. Just make sure it's a fruity one, rather than a super-savory one.