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Ginger (Zingiber officinale) use dates back at least 5000 years.  You know the drill, Asia (it’s been used there for centuries), through the Middle East to Europe, then the Arab control of the spice trade, the trade routes open and spices become more available.  The history of spice does seem to repeat itself, doesn’t it?  Fortunately for us, ginger is readily available and in several forms…fresh, dried (in slices, pieces or more readily, ground), in syrup and crystalized.
038Ginger is a rhizome and comes from the same family as cardamom and turmeric, which is sort of interesting, because those are 3 of the main components of curry.  Most of us associate ginger with Chinese or Indian food, but it is also a popular spice in the Caribbean.  Ginger roots were carried on slave ships, which is probably how ginger was introduced to Brazil (now the largest exporter of ginger to the US), then up the coast to the Caribbean, then into the US.  As you might imagine, ginger grows well in the warmer climes.  I have, on occasion, grown it in a large pot on the window sill.  I think I was trying to channel James Beard, who apparently liked to have a pot of ginger growing in his house.

Ginger, like most spices, has been a major player in trade and was really a form of currency.  It’s glory days were during the 13th and 14th centuries, when a pound of ginger would fetch the same price as a whole sheep!  Fortunately for us, every corner market has ginger and at a much more reasonable price.  I always find it difficult to get an entire sheep in my purse, don’t you?

The blog Eat.Live.Escape, which you should check out, has a recipe for Maple Syrup Tomato Chutney.  I love tomato chutney, so I adapted their recipe a bit to fit our needs for today, as I love 104tomato chutney with ginger and mustard seeds….

Quick Tomato Chutney with Ginger and Mustard Seeds

  • Servings: About 4 cups
  • Difficulty: Easy
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  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole brown mustard seeds
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 (14 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes (I like the yellow ones)
  • 1/4 cup very finely julienned gingerroot
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced crystalized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4-1/3 cup honey or maple syrup (or a combination of the two)

Heat a heavy saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and when hot, toss the mustard seeds.  Cook for about 1 minute or until they begin to pop.  Add the onion and sauté until it softens, about 5 minutes.  Lower the heat and add the tomatoes, ginger and chile flakes; cook until the tomato breaks down, but still has some form to it, about 12-14 minutes.  Pour in the red wine vinegar and honey (start with the lesser amount); continue to simmer, uncovered, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5-6 minutes.  Cool to room temperature (it will thicken a bit more as it cools).  The chutney will keep in the fridge for about 5-7 days.  Later in the year when you have bushels of tomatoes in your garden, you may preserve this for longer storage by canning it.

NOTE:  Feel free to toss in a cinnamon stick and a large pinch of cloves when you add the tomatoes.

Adapted from Eat.Live.Escape.

098Eat.Live.Escape suggests serving this with sour dough bread, cheddar and fresh thyme leaves or with rocket, ham and Swiss cheese or served as an accompaniment to bacon and eggs for breakfast.  Who am I to question their suggestions?

I think this will be great with lamb or burger and absolutely delicious eating it out of the jar, with a spoon (hey, I’m civilized!), over the sink!