I feel sorry for pears. They’re coming into season, all gloriously ripe and sweet, but they get overlooked because everyone is all agog about pumpkins and cranberries this time of year.
May I suggest we make room on our autumn plates and palates for the pear? Nothing is more transcendent than biting into a perfectly ripened pear, one so juicy you have to eat it leaning over the sink — divine!
Nothing is better, except maybe this chutney. Wait, what the heck is chutney? Chutney comes from the East Indian “chatni,” meaning “to eat with appetite,” and refers to a condiment that’s like a savory, sweet and sour preserve. It’s a mix of chopped fruits, vinegar, spices and sugar cooked into a scrumptious chunky spread.
Chutney is served as an accompaniment to chicken, turkey and pork, as well as dishes like Indian curries. But chutney goes with so many things.
It’s delicious added to sandwiches, especially chicken or turkey salad for some unexpected zing. Try it with roasted sweet potatoes or squash. But my personal fave is putting some on a sharp cheddar grilled cheese sandwich, which is ridiculously delicious.
Pear chutney is an autumn staple to have on hand as an appetizer because it’s a major upgrade to any cheese board and makes amazing crostini with a little brie, goat cheese or cream cheese.
There are literally thousands of recipes for chutney using everything from yogurt to mint to peanuts. Regarding the recipe I’m sharing today, when you combine pear with ginger, they bring out the best in each other. But when you make them into chutney, they’re utterly delectable together.
The wonderful thing about this chutney recipe is its versatility. You can easily alter the flavor and appearance by using different ingredients.
Fluctuate the fruit: You can use any variety of pear or apple in this recipe. The flavor difference between a tart granny smith apple versus a sweet ripe bartlett pear makes for a completely different chutney.
Vary the vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is classic in chutneys, but you could use balsamic to give it a beautiful red color. Rice wine vinegar is subtle and works well with milder fruits.
Modify the dry: Other dried fruits can be substituted for cranberries, like raisins, dried blueberries, cherries, apples, apricots or even chopped figs.
If you like wine and food pairing, this chutney is wonderful with sweet white varietals, like Riesling and Moscato, but surprisingly delicious with lighter reds too, like pinot noir.
Did you ever think you’d be serving pears with practically everything? Way to go, pear. We believe in you. High five.
Pear Ginger Chutney
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup onion or shallot, fine dice
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon crystalized ginger, minced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups fresh, firm red pears, chopped
In a 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is soft, being careful not to brown or burn.
Add the vinegar, brown sugar, cranberries, ginger, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the pears and stir to incorporate. Simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes, or until the liquids reduce and become syrupy. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired.
Serve hot, warm, room temperature or cold. Keeps refrigerated for up to two weeks.