I begin this post with a confession – I am a complete cheese addict. If there were such a group, I’d surely have to be the first to join the Cheese-oholics Anonymous. The “stinkier” the cheese the more I love it! So basically I have yet to find a cheese I don’t like. I know, I know…I should probably be going vegan and give up on cheese entirely but then again…what would be the point of living if I couldn’t eat cheese? The point of all this confessional cheese-talk is that due to this obsession with cheese, I often serve a cheese platter and I pair the cheese with some kind of jam or chutney on the side. In my search for a better chutney to go with my cheese, I struck gold this time – I created a chutney that was absolutely to die for – Apricot Habanero Chutney! Even I am surprised at how flavorful, colorful, spicy and yummy it turned out. I served it with an Apricot Stilton and just basic plain water crackers and this combination knocked the chutney out of the ball park!
I stored half the chutney in a container in my refrigerator and I canned the rest of it in small glass jars. I like to give away these jars of chutneys and jams as gifts when I visit friends and family.
1. 4 lbs of fresh apricots
2. 1 lb of dried apricots
3. 3 cups of sugar
4. 3 Habanero peppers
5. One or two fresh lemons (depending on how ripe the apricots were and how tart you like your chutney. I used the zest of one lemon and the juice of one lemon).
6. 2 teaspoons of salt
7. 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
8. 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
9. One packet of pectin (if needed! I did not use any and the chutney was still quite thick and jam-like in consistency)
2. Place the chopped up apricots in a large pot (preferably one with a heavy bottom) and place the pan on medium heat and start cooking the apricots. Stir frequently. Do NOT add any water to the pan – the apricots already have a high water content and that is enough to get them mushy.
5. Wash the Habanero peppers and then with a sharp knife, separate the flesh from the inner part of the pepper. The worst heat of the pepper is in the seeds and the veins and I prefer to take that part out. If you have sensitive skin, please use rubber gloves while working with the Habanero Peppers.
8. When the contents of the pot look mushy and thoroughly cooked (takes about 30-40 minutes on low to medium heat), add the sugar to the pot and stir everything thoroughly.
9. Let the sugar get completely dissolved and integrated with the apricots and while the chutney is cooking, continue to stir it frequently (scrap the bottom of the pot with your wooden spatula to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan or getting burnt in the process). This step of cooking the chutney and incorporating the sugar usually takes 15-20 minutes.
10. 5-7 minutes after you initially add the sugar to the pot, add the salt to the chutney and also the zest and juice of one lemon. Stir everything again.
11. When the sugar is cooked and incorporated completely, take a small teaspoon and taste the chutney – if you like it any sweeter or saltier or more tart, add whichever ingredient (more salt, sugar, or lemon juice) you would like to add to suit your preferences.
12. Also check for the consistency of the chutney – it should be thick and jam-like. Apricots have natural pectin in them and they get a jam-like consistency when they are cooked with sugar but if you’d like the chutney any thicker, then dissolve a packet of pectin in a small quantity of water and add that to the chutney and let it look for another 5-7 minutes. I did NOT use any pectin in my chutney.
13. When the chutney is completely cooked, heat the extra virgin olive oil in a small saucepan and then add the chili flakes to it when the oil is bubbling and immediately switch off the heat under the saucepan.
14. Immediately, add the oil and pepper mixture to the chutney. Do not leave the pepper flakes to get burnt in the oil – they need to be in the hot oil for only 3-5 seconds. Stir the oil into the chutney.
15. When the chutney cools down, you can pour it into small glass jars and then follow the canning directions. These sealed jars can be stored in a cool dark place for up to a year.
16. Serve the chutney with a variety of creamy and salty cheeses and a crusty baguette or some water crackers on the side. I served it with some Apricot Stilton and the strong apricot flavor in the chutney and the cheese was absolutely heavenly! The chutney can be used to marinade meats for grilling or as an accompaniment for already grilled meats (it is especially good with chicken or pork).