One Stellar Appetizer for the Holidays

Some recipes unquestionably deserve their own post, and the one I share with you today more than qualifies for the honor. It is a staple at every important celebration in my family, and is my hands-down favorite appetizer to bring to parties. Not only is it unusually delicious, but it carries with it its own form of entertainment, at least for me. At family parties I take gleeful pleasure in squirreling myself away in some corner, from where I can watch the procession of people previously uninitiated to the siren call of this intoxicating spread, as they approach the table and take a first bite. It is not uncommon for some poor sap to find him/herself hunkered over the table for 15 minutes, spreading and gobbling the stuff with little regard for the erosion of a previously untarnished reputation for self-control. It is, in short, a recipe for which I am quite famous.

Unfortunately, there is one catch. The recipe calls for a really good jar of Mango Chutney. I have included my recipe for it here, but I am not sure how many of my readers will be brave enough to tackle a canning project. A reasonable alternative would be to ferret out a jar at your local farmer’s market, where local producers often sell such condiments. The first choice would be a mango chutney, of course, as the flavor complements the curried cheese spread as no other. But a nice peach chutney or even a tangy cranberry chutney might work well. What is NOT acceptable is to try one from your local “super” grocery. The first time I made this I used one, and it flat out ruined what should be a spectacular creation. It’s what drove me to learning to make my own. You are better off foregoing the recipe altogether than to resort to mass-produced chutney.

On the other hand, if someone wants to try their hand at the chutney, and needs a little help, don’t forget 911Mim. My offer to coach you through new techniques, recipes and processes still stands. It’s really not that difficult or time-consuming at all. Honest! As a matter of fact, after my daughter Denise took my Cheddar-Mango Chutney Spread to her Mah Jong group, two of the women fell in love with it and decided that they just had to make the chutney. With minimal coaching from me they successfully turned out a batch, and I suspect they have been gleefully spying on their own party tables ever since!

NOTE: I buy the green mangoes for my chutney at my Asian grocery store, where they are very large, and very green, and perfect for this application.

So, here it is. My pièce de résistance!

CHEDDAR-MANGO CHUTNEY SPREAD

 

8 ounces Cheddar cheese

8 ounces cream cheese

1 ½ T minced onion

3 T dry sherry

1 tsp. curry powder

Dash Tabasco

2 cups good quality Mango Chutney (recipe follows)

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a food processor or blender, combine cheeses, onion, sherry, curry powder and Tabasco. Blend well. Divide in half and turn each half into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 2 hours. Put one disc of cheese on a serving plate (I do this ½ of the spread at a time, to keep the spread from becoming ugly from people digging into it.)  Top with 1 cup good quality Mango Chutney and sprinkle with half the almonds. Serve with a cracker that can stand up to the spread. I like Stoned Wheat Thins™ with this appetizer – they hold up well to spreading, and are neutral enough to not compete with the flavors.

When the first disc is gone, serve the second, using the second half of your jar of chutney to top it; this keeps things prettier.

MANGO CHUTNEY

?

4 pounds green mangoes or peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into 1” chunks

1 large sweet red pepper, washed, cored, seeded and cut into 1” pieces

1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into slim wedges

2 large cloves garlic, peeled

3 cubes (about 1” each) peeled fresh ginger

1 pound Sultana raisins

1 pound currants

1 pound granulated sugar (2 cups)

1 pound light brown sugar

1 quart cider vinegar

1 T ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 T dry mustard

1 ½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. crushed dried red peppers

Pulse the mangoes in three or four batches, holding the pulse button down to the count of “one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three, etc., with each pulse. Dump into a large stainless steel kettle. Repeat this process for the pepper –using 5 to 6 on-offs. Repeat with the onion. Drop the garlic and ginger through the feed tube with the motor running and process until they are finely minced – about 5 seconds. Scrape into the kettle. Add the rest of ingredients and stir well. Set the pot in a cool spot, cover, and let stand undisturbed for 8 hours.

Set the kettle over moderate heat and bring slowly to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture boils slowly, and cook, uncovered, about 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until glossy and thick. Ladle into hot, sterilized preserving jars (I use one-pint jars because that’s the amount I use for one recipe of my Chutney Cheddar Spread), filling to within ¼” of the tops. Wipe the jar rims with a damp cloth and seal. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath, then remove the jars and cool to room temperature. Check the seal on each jar, then label and store them in a cool, dry dark place. The flavor will be better developed if it mellows on the shelf for about a month before opening.

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6 Responses to One Stellar Appetizer for the Holidays

  1. Summer says:

    That’s a keeper! Thanks for posting this one. I’m going to try it …as soon as I find some green mangoes!

    • Mim says:

      I KNEW that you, the consummate canner, would bite for this one, Summer. :} Try your local Asian market for the green mangoes. I find them at mine year-round. Please come back and let us know how you like it when you’ve given it a whirl. I’m sure you will love it!

  2. nrvana says:

    You had me at “Mango!” Can’t wait to try the Cheddar-Mango Chutney spread recipe out. With your permission, I’d like to feature your recipe on my cooking and travel blog as well:
    http://mycookingnirvana.com/ Vanaja

  3. Summer says:

    Hey, guess what? I got a first prize at the county fair for my mango chutney. Although, me recipe is different than your, but very similar, your post were my inspiration for making it (plus it was mango season and they were cheap this year!). I still have to try it with the cheddar cheese spread.

  4. Summer says:

    Do these cheese balls freeze well? Just wondering.

    • Mim says:

      I have no idea, Summer, and the question just makes me smile, because I have never had any left over to freeze, that’s for sure! As to freezing before hand, I would probably not bother, as you can certainly make and hold the curried cheese mix for a number of days before an event. There is nothing in there to head south, really, and the chutney is always added to the top just before serving. I hope you’ll come back and let us know how it works out for you.

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