Chutney’s, Relishes, Pickles and Sauces are what todays post is all about. But what is the difference between them? The answer, as with many of these things, depends on who you ask? For once Wikipedia is not much help. They seem to suggest that pickles and chutney’s are both relishes which seems fine until you realise they also consider jam a relish – and perhaps it is, but in my book only when its a jam made from a traditionally savoury ingredient – onions, tomatoes etc. They seem to use the word relish interchangeably with preserve which isn’t really how I’d define it.
Cookery the Australian Way has a chapter devoted to pickles, relishes, chutneys and sauces. They advise that, given their strong flavours they be “introduced gradually into the diets of small children and omitted from the diets of invalids.” My book is quite dated and I find these little pieces of advice endlessly entertaining. Anyway they suggest that pickles are generally uncooked fruits or vegetables preserved in vinegar and then flavoured with salt and spices or alternatively sugar and spices. They helpfully distinguish between sweet and sour pickles. Things get more interesting when we get to relishes – they suggest that relishes are distinguished from chutneys by being thickened with flour and cooked for a significantly shorter time. Now the shorter time bit makes sense (I think the vegetables are usually cut a lot finer when making relish), but the flour? – not really sure. Sauces they suggest are cooked until the vegetables are soft and then strained. Interesting information but again I’m not sure that is how I’d distinguish them, thinner yes but strained hmmm, I don’t always…. No matter how you distinguish them though chutneys, pickles and sauces are all great ways to preserve vegetables. All that remains is to tell you which vegetables I think (and fruits) are the best ones to be preserving in this manner.
1. Tomatoes – I wonder what proportion of the worlds population has never tasted tomato sauce…certainly there would be very few people in the Western world who haven’t. Love it or hate it, it is the king of sauces and no post about savoury preserves would be complete without mentioning it. I sometimes think that you could just as easily call tomato sauce a chutney but I suspect this is because my mums sauce tastes a lot like tomato chutney, and thus that’s how I think sauce should taste – Sweet, spicy and tomatoey.
2. Cucumbers – A lot of cuisines pickle cucumbers: from America to South East Asia, to Korea via Eastern Europe there are a lot of people in this world adding vinegar to cucumbers. My personal favourite are bread and butter cucumbers but I’m also partial to the South East Asian dipping sauces that mix vinegar, chilli, sugar and cucumbers with fish sauce.
3. Beetroot – I have to admit to being something of a devotee of pickled beetroot. I even like the tinned stuff. I also enjoy beetroot made into a sweet chutney or relish. Its earthy flavour seems to lend itself to being soaked in vinegar, spices and sugar.
4. Eggplant- When I think about eggplant pickles I am thinking about the hot spicy ones made in India. They’ve got the vinegar and sugar like the rest of the pickles mentioned here but with the addition of large quantities of spices, sugar and chilli they hot, spicy and very moreish.
5. Onions – I changed my mind a number of times about what to put in this slot, but my partners love of pickled onions won the day. Now I have to admit that they are not really my favourite pickle but my mother-in-laws pickled onions are one of my partner’s favourite things to eat. Personally I prefer onion jam which you could really call a chutney and thus onions earn their place from my palates perspective too. Is there a nicer breakfast than sausage or bacon on a sour dough roll with onion jam, cooked tomatoes and a bit of avocado on the side? Yum. Even a vego version with meat free sausages can be pretty darn good. I draw the line a fake bacon though – yuk!
So what have I missed? Actually I can think of a fair few things but I would love to know what you think make the best savoury preserves.
For anyone interested in childrens books The New Good Life’s Top 5 this week is on that very topic. Pop over and have a look at what she’s come up with.