Back in August, I was tapped to be a pickle judge at the Eat Real Fest in Oakland, CA. The festival was a bacchanalia of all things foodie: Squadrons of street carts, tremendous walls of spigots spewing microbrews, live demos of everything from butter to butchery. The judging came as part of a series of contests for urban homesteaders. Homemade goods were judged in several categories: Home brewing, kombucha, jam making and pickles.
Among the highlights of the things we tasted were some peppery nasturtium capers and a pickled fig that made our eyes roll. But the one that haunted me most was a bright, complex tomato-lemon chutney. The flavors were simple and clean, yet somehow more than the sum of their parts. It came in second to the nasturtium capers, but it was a close race for sure.
I was able to reach the contributor, Bay Area resident Rany Prambs, who shared the recipe with me. It’s easy and straightforward, and a real testament to the fact that using good, fresh ingredients and treating them with respect will always net you stellar results.
Like all good chutneys, this has a beautiful balance of tart, sweet and hot, so it plays well with a wide variety of foods. It can stand alone as a cracker topper, or sidle up to your holiday main meat; if you’re making a Christmas goose, so much the better.
I’ve been all about the chutneys this season; I think they make interesting and appealing holiday gifts. This one, however, might not make it out of my house. I can barely keep from eating it by the spoonful.
Rany’s Tomato-Meyer Lemon Chutney
Rany’s original recipe used fresh, ripe roma tomatoes. If you can still get some, then by all means use them. Otherwise, you can use canned crushed tomatoes, but be sure to use the finest quality. Make sure they contain nothing other than tomatoes. Or, crack open a jar of the ones you canned earlier this year. You did can some, right? Right?
2 Tbsp safflower oil
2 oz garlic, finely minced
1-1/4 lb fresh, ripe roma tomatoes, or 2 c. crushed tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt
3 fresh cayenne peppers, minced, or 1/2 tsp chili pepper flake
1 bay leaf
1 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 c. sugar
1 small meyer lemon, chopped finely, skin on but seeds and pith removed
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Gently saute the garlic until fragrant; do not brown. Add the salt, peppers, bay leaf and tomatoes and give a good stir. Turn up the heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until the skins start to separate from the tomatoes. Add the lemon juice and the sugar, and reduce the heat. Keep the mixture at a low, murmuring simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes. When the liquid is reduced and thickened, add the lemons and remove from heat. Remove bay leaf. If canning, ladle into hot jars and process by normal water bath methods.
Yields 3 half-pint jars
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, DPaul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.