A Special Midweek Recipe: Ad-Libbed Cranberry Chutney

It’s not saturday, but I’ve got a recipe that I needed to write down before I forget it, so you’re getting an extra bonus.

I usually make a simple cranberry relish for thanksgiving. But it needs to be made a couple of days in advance. This year, I completely forgot about the cranberries until this morning. So I figured I needed to do something else. A good chutney sounded nice. I went hunting online, but couldn’t find anything that sounded good, so I went ahead and ad-libbed. And the results were amazing – this is definitely the new cranberry tradition in the Chu-Carroll household. Sweet, tart, and spicy – it’s a perfect compliment for the turkey.


  • 12 oz cranberries.
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar.
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar.
  • 1/2 large onion, finely minced.
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced.
  • 1/2 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped.
  • 1 dried serrano chili, finely minced.
  • 1 cup water.
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seed.
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seed.
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds.


  1. Toast the spices in a dry pan until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, and grind to a fine powder.
  2. Put a tablespoon of oil into a hot pan on medium heat.
  3. Add the onions, garlic, salt, and chili pepper to the oil. Cook until the onion becomes translucent.
  4. Add the apples and the ground spices and stir until the apples start to soften.
  5. Mix the water, the vinegar, and the sugar, and add to the pan. Stir vigorously, to get the sugar to dissolve.
  6. When it comes to a boil, add the cranberries. Cook until the cranberries have all popped, and the liquid has reduced. (It will thicken more when you chill it, but don’t leave too much liquid in the pan.)
  7. Remove from the heat, and chill for a couple of hours. The natural pectins from the cranberries will help thicken it up.

My son ended up eating four helpings of this. Even my wife, who usually doesn’t eat cranberries, actually ate a full helping!

A few notes about it:

  • Looking at it, it might seem like 1 1/2 cups is too much sugar. It really isn’t – between the vinegar and the cranberries themselves, there’s a lot of sour and bitter in this, and you need to counterbalance it. It really doesn’t come out too sweet.
  • The spices in this are a sort-of haphazard blend. They’re things that I thought would blend nicely with the cranberry flavor, and which I happened to have in my spice cabinet. You could definitely vary them quite a bit – add a bit of turmeric, yellow mustard instead of the brown, some ginger. The one that I think is most important to the final flavor was probably the fenugreek. You can definitely taste all of them – but the fenugreek has a special flavor and fragrance which really made it work with the turkey.
  • For the cardamom, I used cardamom seeds. I absolutely love cardamom – it’s by far one of my favorite spices. But working with whole cardamom pods is a pain. There’s a lot of flavor in the husk of the pod – but it’s so tough and fibrous that it’s very hard to break up. Even going through my turkish coffee grinder, you still get big fibrous hunks which are unpleasant. So I’ve taken to using just the seeds for things like this; I use the whole pod when I’m cooking it in something that will get strained later, like an ice-cream, or the milk that I use for making bread pudding.
  • Cooking cranberries in fun. They really do pop. When you put them into a hot pan, the insides start to expand until the skins crack open.
  • The only tricky part of this is getting the liquid balance right. Mine came out a bit too runny. But you don’t want it to come out too hard either. Cranberries have a lot of natural pectin in them, so when you chill it, it will thicken up as the pectin starts to set. If you cook it until it’s the texture you want it, it’ll end up too hard when you chill it. But don’t count on it thickening too much – there’s not enough pectin for it to set like a gel from a runny liquid.

Anyway – I’m really delighted with and proud of this recipe. I’m honestly amazed at how well it turned out. Give it a try, and let me know if you like it as much as I do!

0 thoughts on “A Special Midweek Recipe: Ad-Libbed Cranberry Chutney

  1. QZ

    There is a great cranberry chutney in Julie Sahni’s Mughal Microwave that you should check out. Lacking some of the ingredients this Thanksgiving, I modified the recipe and used 12 oz of fresh cranberries, 1 cup of sugar, 1 tsp each of ground cayenne, cumin, coriander and cardamom, and a food-processor mush of 1 apple, two hot green peppers, 1 small red onion, and a large piece of fresh ginger. Mixed everything up in a large microwaveable container, microwaved at full blast, covered for 4 minutes and then uncovered for 5 minutes. We ate it after letting it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature, and it stole the show.


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