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Pear chutney is a condiment that adds a multitude of interwoven layers of flavor when served beside meat, poultry, or fish. There are as many pear chutney variations as there are cooks who create them. The mingling of sweet and tart flavors is common to all pear chutneys, but the ingredients that contribute to those flavors are innumerable.
Fresh pears are far superior to their canned or frozen cousins for chutney preparation. The subtler flavor of fresh pears as well as the firmer texture result in chutney that not only tastes good but that offers more interesting textures. Fresh pears won't lose their form if the chutney is canned or frozen for later use.
While any type of pear can be used for chutney, those with firmer flesh, such as Bosc pears, maintain their integrity during the cooking process better than softer ones, such as Bartletts. The woody core and seeds are removed in all types of pear chutney. Some cooks leave the skin on; others prefer to peel the skin away before the cooking process begins.
Many pear chutney recipes suggest combining pears with another fruit, most commonly apples. However, peaches, mangos, or other fleshy fruit can be used. Many recipes incorporate dried cherries, raisins, or other dried fruits as well.
Pear chutney is prepared in many different types of cuisines. They can be served as a salsa, or cooked and strained, or pureed into a sweet-and-sour sauce. Some regions prefer pear chutney that is very sweet, while others add chili, paprika, or cayenne to add heat.
The fruit is simmered along with vinegar and some type of sweetener until the desired thickness is reached. While many types of pear chutney use distilled or apple cider vinegar, adventurous cooks experiment with other types of vinegar in order to create pear chutney that is truly unique. Brown sugar, molasses, or agave syrup can be used in place of crystal sugar. If low-sugar chutney is desired, artificial sweeteners or stevia can be used.
The addition of onion, garlic, or ginger gives the chutney a savory foundation. A high note can be added with lemon, lime, orange zest, or a squeeze of citrus juice. Unusual pear chutneys can be prepared using vanilla or hazelnut extract. Nuts, such as walnuts or cashews, are also welcome additions. For a truly unique flavor, Chinese 5-spice powder can be used in place of paprika or other herbs or spices.