Spicy Foraged Pear Chutney

Similar in preparation and usage to a pickle, chutney is a spicy condiment containing fruits and vegetables such as plums, apples, pears, figs, tomatoes, chilis, and onions seasoned with salt, spices, and herbs. Vinegar, lemon juice, or tamarind are commonly added as a natural preservative, which gives chutney its well-known pucker. Chutneys range in texture from chunky to smooth, and in varying degrees of spiciness from mild to hot. Chutney is a delicious accompaniment to curried dishes. Sweeter chutneys also make interesting bread spreads and are delicious served with cheese.

Simple spiced chutneys can be dated as far back as 500 BC, and get their name from the East Indian word chatni which means “to lick.” This variation using pears foraged in our neighborhood is a plate-licking alternative to cranberry sauce as an accompaniment for your Thanksgiving turkey and dressing, or for a holiday pork roast.

1 1/2 pounds pears, cored and peeled
1 cup cider vinegar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Chop pears into rough cubes and add to a saucepan with vinegar, sugar, and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until pears are fork tender. Stir in dried cranberries and simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before serving warm or at room temperature.

If you pour the hot chutney straight from the pan into prepared jars, this chutney lends itself well to cold process canning too.