Sheila Lukins’ Better than Ketchup Chutney

You can see bits of red pepper and peanuts in this over-the-top ketchup.

He Who Has Drunk Such a Thing says the spikey pink kudzu flowers smell like Grape Nehi. I’m panting too hard on the dogs’ and my morning “walk” to notice it for more than a moment. I crawl back to the house, my tee shirt soaked with sweat and sure I’ve walked at least 5 miles in those 48 minutes. Back out in the truck to measure and, sadly, it was only 1.8. Rats!

While I’m out, I measure 1.25 and 1.5 miles in two directions from our house with such notes as “upper corner of Salmons’ chicken house” (now used for drying burley tobacco) and “the trees just after dirt road to Otis Grose place.” My friends Paulette and her husband walk 3 miles daily and I must ratchet up to that if I want to continue shrinking. 37 pounds gone this morning, 2 since weighing yesterday morning.

So far, I’m able to be my own trainer bitch and don’t need a scarey outside force like Jillian Michaels to scream and push me to keep stepping it up. And if I just go to bed at night when my mind starts to wander to what’s on the pantry shelves, I’m good to hop back on the scales the next day!

Now, the challenge is doing stuff all day after that walk. Fifteen minutes of Pilates are on my list, as is practicing for my Sunday duet with my voice teacher. I haven’t yet fixed our tomato salad or pasta with pesto and feta cheese , but my fingers are yellow from the curry and turmeric in the Bombay ketchup I just cooked up and canned. The recipe is the creation of the late Sheila Lukins’ via  the Feb.-Mar. issue of Organic Gardening magazine, and it’s made — besides my fingers yellow — my kitchen smell of toasted peanuts, cumin, mustard, onions, peppers, all sorts of good stuff, exotic to us.

I had to drive 30 minutes to the Pecan Park farmers’ market in Statesville to buy curry plants from Madge Eggena of Mills Garden Herb Farm. And I’m a chicken when it comes to heat so I cut curry leaves to 20 in my first batch, dried red chile peppers to 3 and salt to 4 teaspoons instead of 4.5. I think I forgot the cayenne, which is just fine with me.

About 1 tablespoon wouldn’t fit in a canning jar and I’ve dispensed with that! Before aging, it tastes like concentrated tomatoes with just a hint of sugar and afterburn from the peppers along with some suggestions of the curry, turmeric and cumin. Yum!

The other change I made was to peel 5 pounds of tomatoes, break them up in a colander and drain. That meant my ketchup was “jammy” almost from the start. Also, to can, I added I tablespoon fresh lemon juice to each empty half-pint jar before filling and processing.

“Better than Ketchup” Tomato Chutney

1/4 cup canola or olive oil

40 fresh or 60 frozen curry leaves, roughly torn

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

12 dried red chile peppers (or fewer for a milder chutney)

3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced into half moons

1/2 cup toasted American peanuts

3.5 pound tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 4.4-ounce tube double concentrated tomato paste or 9 ounces canned

2 tablespoons sugar

1.5 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon sambhar herb blend (the recipe’s on OrganicGardening.com) or 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (store-bought)

Heat oil with curry leaves, mustard and cumin seeds and chiles in non-reactive pot until cumin seeds are browned (about 2 minutes). Add turmeric and cook, stirring frequently, another 1 to 2 minutes. Add onion and cook until translucent and slightly brown around edges (4 to 6 mibnutes). Add peanuts and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, sugar, salt, cayenne and curry and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and pressing tomatoes against sides of pot to mash if they’re not broken apart.

Reduce heat to medium and cook until chutney is thick and jammy (if canning and you haven’t drained before cooking, you’re liable to need another 20 to 35 minutes, stirring often). Taste for seasoning, transfer to covered container and refrigerate for up to 1 week. You’ll never think of a burger the same way again!

Makes about 3 cups. Using extra tomatoes, I had more like 5 cups when it finished cooking down. I processed half-pint jars for 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath and will let the sharp “tomato-ey” taste mellow on a cool, dark shelf for at least 3 months.

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