I have to admit that I never really got chutney until well into my adult life. My first bite was straight-from-the-jar Crosse & Blackwell Major Grey's at a tender young age, and I had no idea what to do with it. It was sweet, but strangely funky, a little too salty and ohmigod hot for my nubile palate.
Well. Things have changed. Today, I love the complex sweetness of a good chutney, and my only qualm with the aforementioned condiment (a Smucker's product, incidentally) is that it is too pedestrian.
I've made the occasional chutney, the greatest success of which was a reasonably good fuyu persimmon version a couple years ago when I inherited a massive bag of the things from a friend. But in terms of off-the-shelf product, I've been left wanting. Until now.
My first exposure to these piquant creations was at the recent food bloggers' volunteer day at the San Francisco Food Bank. As we lounged about afterwards, soothing our sore muscles and swilling biodynamic wines, among the treats we had to sample were Glaswegian Alison's creations, McQuade's Celtic Chutneys.
Alongside our plates of charcuterie, cheese and chocolate were little glass bowls of glistening Gaelic goodness. Now, I wasn't aware of Scotland's place in chutney culinaria, but I shall never doubt again. From my first taste, it was true love.
The ones I specifically remember tasting that day were the Moray Fig & Ginger and the Elgin Habanero. Despite its incendiary name, the habanero chutney's introductory taste is a mustardy-vinegary kick, with a pleasantly sweet crunch of apple. Only on the finish do you get a throat-tickling burn of capsaicin. The Moray fig is its sweeter sister, with a honeyed palate and caviar-like crunch from the fig seeds. I immediately scampered to Cowgirl Creamery to share these treats with DPaul.
The obvious application is with a cheese plate, and you can't go wrong there. We had each with an unremarkable sharp cheddar and crackers to reasonably good effect, though I felt bad for the poor cheese's whimpering cries under the chutney's operatic trill. By contrast, as a flavor- and texture-enhancing condiment to some smoky grilled pork chops, the sweet-tart zing of the moray fig was like long-legged, blonde arm candy strutting alongside a tall, pomapdoured mayor.
Sure, they run something like a buck an ounce, but you only live once, so you might as well live happy. I say run, don't walk to these locations and stock up on these charming chutneys right now. I said now!
One year ago today ... I told you how to find out everything you ever wanted to know about the 1906 quake and fires. Did you avail yourselves of it? Sheesh, why do I bother?