South African Chutney: The History And The Story Behind The Popular Condiment

South African Chutney

Chutney as a condiment has its origins in India and was used as a complement to curries. It came to South Africa with the Indian sugar cane workers but was made a household staple by Mrs. Ball. Chutney is usually made from a variety of dried fruits that are blended with vinegar, sugar, and spices. Over the years new varieties have been added to keep up with current tastes.

What is chutney?

South African chutney is a sweet and spicy condiment made from dried fruits and vegetables and cooked with sugar, vinegar, and spices. The fruit and vegetables are usually finely chopped and slowly cooked with the other ingredients to form a fairly thick and sticky sauce. Some of the spices and ingredients that it may contain are tamarind, onion, garlic, chilies, spices such as cumin, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and ginger. Every chutney maker has a secret ingredient or ingredients that are “trade secrets”. A vegan product that meat-eaters also enjoy.

The history of chutney

Chutney traces its origins back to India and is thought to have been used more than 1500 years ago. It has a very long shelf life and is very nutritious. Due to the high temperatures, meat and other foods went bad very quickly, chutneys and curries were used to mask the taste of the not-so-tasty food.

When Europeans started trading with India they brought back spices, tea, and of course chutney and its recipe. The condiment’s popularity spread through Europe. It wasn’t until the British colonized India that it spread to South Africa and Australia.

The story behind Mrs. Ball’s chutney

The story of how the chutney came to South Africa has been written about and spread around the internet like a virus. All the stories have some truth to them but as with any story told over and over there has been a lot of embellishment and many fact “adjustments”.

You can read the more factual version of the story here

Types of chutney

Indian chutneys are very different from those in South Africa and varieties are made with pineapple, tomatoes, olives, coconut, nuts, figs, cilantro, and much more. Here are some Indian chutney recipes for you to try at home.
There are now many more South African chutney varieties as well. Chakalaka and Jalapeno being some.

Chutney is an essential part of South African cuisine, like boerewors and pap.

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