Caramelized Onion & Apple Chutney with Dates & Walnuts

Hello Friend! This blog post is as much for me as it is for you.

Every autumn, when our apples ripen, I cobble together some sort of chutney using a variety of recipes that have the ingredients and spices I like or have to hand. I never write down what I’m doing, and I’m always hastily adjusting quantities and second-guessing if I have the right ratio of fruit/vegetables, sugar and acid.

This year, I remembered to be sensible and record my research and final recipe. My future self thanks me in advance, and you’re very welcome too.

Basic Chutney Recipe

As long as you follow a basic formula, chutney is endlessly adaptable and can easily be doubled or tripled. You can use most any fruit or vegetable and a variety of spices.

Along with canning, the acidity of chutney prevents spoilage. This acidity is derived from vinegar and the natural acids of the fruit.

Don’t sway wildly away from the basic ratios below, but there is some leeway. I taste as I go, especially towards the end, keeping in mind that the flavors will develop and mature over the following weeks and months.

  • 17.5 oz apples (weight is after peeling and coring)
  • 17.5 oz onions (weighed is after peeling and removing tough ends)
  • 35.25 any other fruit or vegetable (could also be more apples or onions)
  • 6.5 oz dried fruit
  • 12.35 oz sugar (brown or white)
  • 1.5 cups vinegar (apple cider or white vinegar, balsamic is not recommended for chutney)
  • 2 tbsp preferred spices
  • 1 tbsp salt

Note: If using sweeter vegetables like carrots, you can reduce the amount of sugar. Similarly, if using acidic ingredients like tomatoes, you can add sugar or slightly reduce the quantity of vinegar. I didn’t know this the first time I made chutney using a glut of green tomatoes left over at the end of summer. I love tart foods, but I learned a lip-puckering lesson that year for sure.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has more information on Preservation Principles in Chutney and Principles of Home Canning.

Caramelized Onion & Apple Chutney with Dates & Walnuts

Ingredients

Below are the ingredients I used to approximate the above ratios, tasting and testing right till the end.

I used less sugar because dates are quite a lot sweeter than most dried fruit. I am fond of tart foods, so I amped up the vinegar to suit my own tastes and added some tamarind paste. I also added walnuts, which doesn’t affect the sugar/acidity balance too much. And my spice combination went a teensy bit over the basic 2 tbsp but, again, that won’t affect the chutney from a preservation perspective.

Photo by Vera De on Unsplash
  • 3.25 lbs onions, red or yellow, evenly diced
  • 1.25 lbs apples (tart, like Granny Smith, Braeburn or Pink Lady)
  • 4 oz de-pitted Medjool dates, chopped small
  • 1.5 oz raisins (can chop in half or quarter if preferred but not necessary)
  • 10.5 oz brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 0.25 cups white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp preferred spices (I used 2 tsp coriander, 1.5 tsp cumin, 1 tsp turmeric powder, 0.5 tsp fenugreek powder, 0.5 tsp ginger powder, 0.5 Spanish paprika, 0.5 tsp coarse black pepper, 1/8 tsp cardamom powder, and a little grating of fresh nutmeg)
  • 6.5 oz walnuts, roughly chopped (I like to toast the walnuts for a deeper flavor, but it’s not necessary)

Instructions

Step 1: Caramelize Onions (12hrs 10 mins)

Normally, I prefer to caramelize onions on the stovetop. For recipes that call for a lot of onions, it’s easier and less hands-on to use a slow cooker if you have one. If you don’t have a crockpot, deeply caramelize onions in a heavy-bottomed pot before skipping to the next step.

  • Chop onions evenly to preferred size. Onions will reduce as they cook, but I still like to dice them small-medium.
  • Add to slow cooker with 2 tbsp olive oil. Cover and cook on low for approx. 12 hours, stirring occasionally, esp. towards the end. If there’s a lot of liquid, you can remove the lid for the last hour or so.

Step 2: Prep Remaining Ingredients & Cook ‘Em Up! (1.5-2hrs)

  • Weigh and prep remaining ingredients (chop apples, toast walnuts if choosing to toast etc.).
  • Combine everything except walnuts in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and stir in the caramelized onions.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat then reduce heat and simmer until mixture reaches a jam-like consistency. This can take from 45 mins to 1.5 hrs, depending on how much moisture is released by the fruit you’re using. Some apples will break down completely and some will hold their shape and release less liquid. You can tell the chutney is ready by running a wooden spoon through the mixture. Your spoon should briefly leave a channel in the mixture, and there shouldn’t be liquid pooling into the space.
  • When the chutney is ready, stir in the walnuts and cook briefly to heat through.

Step 3: Sterilize Jars & Can Chutney in Water Bath

Some folks say that the acidity of chutney is preservation enough and canning is not needed. I am not one of those donuts and, since I can’t measure the pH of my recipes, I always can chutney in a boiling water bath.

  • Sterilize jars and lids while the chutney is simmering away.
  • When chutney is ready, fill hot chutney into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel.  Apply and adjust prepared canning lids.
  • Bring water bath to a boil. Lower jars gently into water and return to a boil. Process in a boiling water canner according to the recommendations below (timing begins when the water bath is at a boil, not when you lower jars into the water).
  • Turn off heat and let jars sit in water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool, undisturbed, 12 to 24 hours, listening out for the pop that tells you the lids have sealed.
  • Refrigerate any leftover chutney from filling jars and enjoy freshly made! Refrigerate the canned chutney once jars are opened for use.
Jar SizeProcess Time at Altitude ofProcess Time at Altitude ofProcess Time at Altitude of
0 – 1,000 ft1,001 – 6,000 ftAbove 6,000 ft
Pints10 mins15 mins20 mins