Later on, as I discovered and fell in love with Indian cuisine, tamarind was presented in a runny "chutney" on many Indian buffets, and while this use tended to present the sour side of the fruit, nonetheless it became a chutney I particularly enjoyed. I was already familiar with its flavor, so this was an easy transition. In many dishes that call for tamarind as a sour flavoring agent, lemon juice is used as a substitute. If you keep in mind that while tamarind is in no way as tart as lemons, it is a souring agent used extensively in Indian dishes and other Southeast Asian cuisines, as well as in the Caribbean and Central America.
If you are unfamiliar with tamarind, the fruit is encased in a brittle pod that is easily broken and removed. The dense and sticky fruit is somewhat encased in long, stringy fibers, and inside are somewhat flattened, glossy seeds. To make tamarind water as a beverage, you would first remove the brittle pod, then set the insides to soak in water. Once softened it is easiest to use clean hands and just squeeze and squish (very technical terms, I now!) the fruit to release its flavors, then strain and sweeten to taste. I went into this in a couple of blogs, see this one for a little more detail.
Tamarind is also found in a "brick", where the outside shells have been removed and the inner, sticky pulp, fibers and seeds are compressed. It is usually found cellophane wrapped, and it is used in the exact same way as if you used the pods. This package said "seedless" but that was absolutely not so!
I was amazed to find up here in Aberdeen, South Dakota, that our local WalMart store now carries whole tamarind pods! I had just used up the box full I had bought a couple of years past, while making Tamarind Chutney for an Indian dinner recently, so this was a wonderful surprise. In light of this, I wanted to write about making this chutney. It is not to everyone's taste, but for me it is certainly high on my list of favorite chutnies. My husband likes his sweet mango chutney, and I occasionally make and can a few jars to keep on hand. I will have to make some more as I also used up the last jar for that Indian meal.
Tamarind Chutney or Imli Chutney
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
7 ounces of compressed tamarind brick, or 7 ounces of tamarind pods, shell removed
3 cups boiling water
3/4 cup brown sugar or jaggery
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon black salt, or regular salt, optional
Soak the tamarind in the hot water for about 30 minutes, until softened. The water will have cooled significantly during this time. Strain the water off into another container. Use 1 cup of the water to mash and squeeze the softened pulp and press it through a strainer. Use the back of a spoon to continue pressing to remove as much of the pulp as possible, without any fibers or seeds.
Once the strained pulp is pressed out as well as possible, place all the pulp retrieved into a saucepan. Add in all the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and then lower to a medium low boil and cook for about 20 minutes. The chutney is not meant to be thick, but only slightly less runny. Store in jars in the refrigerator for up to two months.
If you would like to make a very tasty Mango Chutney (of the British "Major Grey" sort), this recipe is absolutely delicious. It makes 3 pints, so canning and processing in a water bath is a good idea.
Mango Chutney or Am ChutneyMakes 3 pints
8 green cardamom pods, crushed
5 whole cloves
1½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1½ teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
½ teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
3-inches true cinnamon stick, crumbled
2 pounds fresh mango, cut in ½-inch chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup Sultanas (white raisins)
¼ cup seedless tamarind pulp, optional
1 piece fresh ginger the size of a large walnut
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly and chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon hot chili flakes, amounts optional
1½ cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
Place the first 6 ingredients into a dry skillet and heat to fairly high, stirring often until very fragrant. Remove the spices to a large enameled or stainless pot or stock pot. Add in the mango, onion, Sultanas, tamarind, ginger and garlic with the salt and chili flakes. Pour in the vinegar and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower heat to medium, maintaining a good boil and stirring often to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. Allow the mixture to cook for 10 minutes. Add in the sugar all at once and stir to dissolve. Once the mixture returns to a boil, stir relatively continuously for another 12 minutes or so, until the mixture begins to fall in two thick droplets from the side of a spoon.
Have hot sterilized pint jars ready. Pack the chutney into the jars, wipe rims and threads with a wet cloth and seal with lids and rings. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for:
10 minutes if at 0 - 1,000 feet
15 minutes if at 1,000 to 6,000 feet
20 minutes if above 6,000 feet
Remove from water bath and set jars on the counter to await the nice pop, indicating a good seal on the jars.
My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (AHOFpin). I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies