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Preservation Principles in Chutney

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Preservation Principles in Chutney

What is 'chutney'?
'Chutney' is a relish-type condiment; its increasing popularity reflects the inclusion of ethnic world cuisines in the Western diet.

The term 'chutney' includes several different varieties of sauce-type foods, drawn from traditional East Indian cuisine. The main ingredient may be an herb such as cilantro or mint; a flavoring ingredient such as coconut, onion, ginger, tamarind; or, in the most common form, chopped fruit or vegetables, simmered with spices, onion, sugar and vinegar. Fruit-based chutneys are usually cooked, then canned or refrigerated. Other chutneys like cilantro, onion, coconut, etc. are usually eaten fresh, with minimal, if any, cooking.

Please read Using Pressure Canners and Using Boiling Water Canners before beginning. If this is your first time canning, it is recommended that you read Principles of Home Canning.

Fruit chutneys are most commonly available and varieties include mango, apple, apricot, cranberry, date, papaya, peach, pear, pineapple, plum, tomato and mixed fruit, to which raisins and nuts may be added to complement the texture. The result is a sweet-sour-spicy-hot versatile blend—an adventure for the taste buds.

Are there special spices commonly used in fruit chutney?
Chili powder or red pepper flakes are most common, but others include ginger (usually ground or chopped fresh ginger), garlic, turmeric, and curry powder (a mixture of ground spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seed, cumin, fenugreek, mustard seed, nutmeg). Other seasonings may include salt, pepper, sugar, tamarind paste, vinegar and lemon juice.

How is chutney used?
Chutney is a perfect accompaniment to East Indian food; however, it can also be used as a side dish, sandwich spread, dip, an accompaniment to cheese and crackers, or as an ingredient to enhance the flavor of everyday dishes like chicken salad or casseroles.

What helps preserve the chutney?
Several different factors contribute to the 'preserved' nature of this product:

  1. The acidity (low pH) of the chutney prevents growth of several spoilage and pathogenic bacteria, molds and yeasts. This acidity is derived from the added vinegar and the natural acids of the fruit.
  2. Cooking the mixture to concentrate it lowers available moisture that is needed for microbial growth. The cooking step also kills most microorganisms that may be present.
  3. Processing the filled jars in a canner uses additional heat to kill spoilage organisms that might contaminate the product as jars are filled and to produce a vacuum seal for later storage. If the two-piece canning lid is applied correctly, air is driven out of the headspace while the jars are in the canner and a vacuum seal is formed upon cooling. For most chutneys, a boiling water canning process is adequate, but other foods may require a pressure process.
  4. During storage in the sealed jar, oxygen and additional microbial contamination is kept from the product. Too much oxygen left in the jar will cause interactions with food components that lead to quality losses (for example, undesirable changes in color, texture, and flavor).

What problems could arise from improper preparation and processing of chutney?
If the cooking and canning steps are improperly carried out, spoilage microorganisms could grow, leading to product loss. In a worst-case scenario, specifically if the product is not acidified sufficiently (below pH 4.6), and not heat-processed adequately, pathogenic bacterial spores may survive, germinate and form toxin on room temperature storage - such as spores of the potentially fatal Clostridium botulinum. Also, if air is not excluded, physical and chemically-induced quality deterioration of the product may occur.


  1. When cooking with vinegar, lemon juice or acid foods, use a stainless steel stockpot. This prevents leaching of metal into the food, and pitting of the vessel which might occur with other metals such as aluminum and cast iron.
  2. Caution: Handling green mangoes may irritate the skin of some people in the same way as poison ivy. (They belong to the same plant family.) To avoid this reaction, wear plastic or rubber gloves while working with raw green mango. Do not touch your face, lips or eyes after touching or cutting raw green mangoes until all traces are washed away.

  3. Canning Chutneys

These documents were adapted from the "Complete Guide to Home Canning," Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA, revised 2009 &
From "So Easy to Preserve", 5th ed. 2006. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.