DIY: chutney - to make or to buy?

Is it always worth making your favourites from scratch? Our DIY series puts shop bought and homemade to the test - this time, chutney...

Homemade mango chutney in jars

Those virtuous enough to enjoy a seasonal garden glut know just how easy it can be to transform a bounty of fruit and veg into a delectable condiment. However, those without a crop horde to use up may not see the point of all that chopping, simmering and stirring when your favourite flavour pairing can be snapped up in seconds from a supermarket shelf.

For those stuck on the fence between homemade and shop bought our food editor, Caroline Hire, has put both through their paces, testing ease, taste and cost, so you don't have to...

The cost

Cost of shop bought chutney:
£2.50 (per 250g jar)

Cost of ingredients for homemade chutney:
£2 (per 250g jar)

The recipe Caroline used: Classic apple chutney

Classic apple chutney with cold meats

''Even if you buy the apples, the ingredients for the homemade chutney are only around £2 - cheaper than the equivalent shop bought chutney which was about £2.50 for a jar.''

Caroline's tip...

''Chutney makes a great gift - this recipe made about four jam jars worth so I can pack up a couple and give to friends. You could even use tiny jars to stretch it even further.''

The making:

''The recipe is as easy as it gets, you simply chop the ingredients, throw them in a pan and then simmer for 30-40 minutes. When I have made chutney before I've tried to use up what's left in my storecupboard, so sometimes I'll substitute different brown sugars or other vinegars like white wine and sherry. If I've got sultanas not raisins I use them and this time I had some dried cranberries, so they went in too.

The recipe I followed requires you leave the chutney to cool and then you are free to spoon into jars or eat. However, I find leaving your chutney in a cool dark place for a month or two really matures the flavour nicely, and does away with any sharp vinegar notes that may be lingering.''

How to make chutney video guide

Caroline's tip...

''Sterilising the jars is easy too. I simply wash them in hot, soapy water and then dry them out in a low oven (about 100°C)''

The taste:

''Personally I preferred the mellow flavour of the homemade chutney to the sharper taste of the shop bought. I also think it has a more attractive look and texture than a lot you can buy. I like to know what has gone into my food, so this ticks all the boxes for me.''

The verdict:

'If you want to eat your chutney instantly then shop bought may be for you. However, if you're in no rush, homemade gets my vote this time. Tastier and cheaper than shop bought, and hardly more effort than popping to the shops. I am lucky enough to have an apple tree in the garden so it's a great way of using up the windfall. This is a really delicious recipe, which goes well with a cheeseboard or in a ham sandwich - and will be ideal with Christmas meats and in foodie hampers.''

Fancy having a go at making your own? Try our favourite preserve recipes

Comments, questions and tips

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29th Oct, 2014
When I first came to Germany chutney was unknown. Now it is easily available. It is very expensive and the ingredients leave a bit to the imagination, even with the best. Having started to make my own I have found it is well worth the effort and fun. Friends here cannot wait to sample and I try to take advantage of seasonal fruits and veg. No point in making tomato chutney when tomatoes are tasteless and expensive.
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