Karonde Ki Chutney| Kalakai Sweet Pachadi

Karonde Ki Chutney refers to a sweet-and-sour relish made from the Carissa Carandas fruit. While the fruit is more popular by its Hindi name (‘karanda’), it is also referred to as Carandas Plum and Bengal Currant. The Tamil name for the fruit is ‘Kalakkai‘, and that it is not the same as fresh cranberries, contrary to what many online articles state.

I have always craved to try out Karonde Ka Achaar, Carandas Plum pickle that I have heard people from up north raving about. Sadly, the fruit is not very commonly available here in Bangalore. Some time ago, I was overjoyed to find it – for the first time ever – in Gandhi Bazaar. Of course, I had to get some home! I pickled most of them, and made Karonde Ki Chutney with the rest. Both taste fabulous, but my heart lies with the chutney! In today’s post, I am going to share with you all the way I made the chutney.

A closer look at Carissa Carandas aka Karonde

The Carissa Carandas fruit is rich in Vitamins A and C, iron, phosphorus and calcium. It is known to help in the treatment of anaemia, digestive disorders, fever, cough and skin diseases. (Information Courtesy: Wikipedia).

The fruits have a sour taste and possesses naturally occurring pectin, which makes them just the perfect candidate for pickles, jams, jellies and chutneys. I also recently read about large amounts of karonda being injected with red colour and sugar syrup in West Bengal, then distributed across India, to be used as ‘cherries’ in desserts. So, in all likelihood, growing up in India, most of us have, knowingly or unknowingly, eaten the karanda – in the guise of ‘maraschino cherries’ aka ‘bakery cherries’ or ‘glace cherries‘. 😁 There are several articles and videos online about this – do check them out!

The prickly plant on which the Carandas Plums grow was an important part of the Great Indian Salt Hedge in the pre-Independence era. The Britishers constructed a 2500-mile long hedge in the middle of India, to prevent the smuggling of salt. The hedge was made of thorny plants like Carissa Carandas, prickly pear and bamboo. There are precious few written records of the Britishers discovering the immense potential of these berries, including a recipe by a certain Mrs. J Bartley for ‘Kurwunder Jelly’ in the book ‘Indian Cookery General For Young Housekeepers’.

About this Karonde Ki Chutney

Like I was saying earlier, Karonde Ki Chutney is a an absolutely delicious relish. Carandas Plums are de-seeded and cooked till soft, with sugar added in to balance the sourness of the fruit. The use of other spices like red chilli powder, roasted cumin powder and garam masala makes the chutney very, very flavourful. I am especially fond of the black salt (‘kala namak‘ in Hindi) that goes into this chutney – it quite literally elevates the dish to a whole new level.

This Karonde Ki Chutney recipe is based upon my conversation with my cook, who offered me glimpses into how the sour fruit was used in North Indian households he works in. It was thanks to him that I was able to nail the recipe, and such a keeper it is! It wouldn’t be wrong to call this chutney Kalakai Sweet Pachadi, considering it is similar to the way Manga Pachadi is made, only with a North Indian touch to it. It is a simple recipe, but one that needs careful watching over to achieve perfect results.

Karonde Ki Chutney or Kalakai Sweet Pachadi makes for a beautiful accompaniment to rotis and parathas. The relish can also be served as part of a complete thali meal.

Karonde Ki Chutney recipe

Here is how to go about it. This is a completely vegetarian, vegan (plant-based) and gluten-free recipe.

Ingredients (makes about 1 cup):

1. About 1 cup carandas plum (aka karonde or kalakkai)

2. Salt to taste

3. 1 cup sugar or as per taste

4. 3/4 teaspoon red chilli powder

5. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

6. 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder

7. 3/4 teaspoon black salt (kala namak)

8. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Method:

1. Wash the carandas plums well under running water, removing all traces of dirt from them. Drain out all the water from them, then wipe dry using a cotton cloth. Now, cut the washed and dried plums into two and scoop out the seeds using a knife.

2. Take the de-seeded plums in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in a bit of salt. Place on high flame. Saute for a minute.

3. Now, reduce the flame to medium. Add in about 3/4 cup of water. Cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the plums get softer. Stir intermittently.

4. When the plums have become nice and soft, add in the sugar. Keep the flame still at medium. Mix well.

5. The mixture will become runny at this stage once the sugar is mixed in. Now, add black salt, turmeric powder, salt and red chilli powder to taste. Mix well.

6. Turn the flame down to low-medium. Continue to cook on low-medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the mixture starts thickening. Stir frequently to ensure that the mixture does not burn.

7. When the mixture begins to thicken, add in the garam masala and roasted cumin powder. Mix well. Cook on low-medium flame for 2 more minutes or till the mixture thickens up a bit more. Switch off gas when the mixture has thickened, but is still quite runny. It will thicken further upon cooling.

8. Let the mixture rest in the same pan and cool down completely. Your Karonde Ki Chutney is ready to be bottled. Store refrigerated in a clean, dry, air-tight bottle. Use as needed, as an accompaniment to rotis, bread or as part of a complete thali meal.

Tips & Tricks

1. Adjust the amount of sugar, salt and red chilli powder as per personal taste preferences.

2. Before beginning to make the chutney, try out one of the plums to get an idea of how sour they are. Then you will know approximately how much sugar you will need.

3. Though I have not tried that out, I think you can make this chutney using jaggery in the place of sugar. You may even use a mix of sugar and jaggery.

4. Make sure you use a heavy-bottomed pan to cook the chutney. Keep the flame at low-medium mostly, to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan.

5. If the water dries out and you feel the plums haven’t completely cooked, you may add in some more water. Adjust the quantity of water depending upon the way the plums cook.

6. You may keep the carandas plums whole too and remove the seeds while eating. However, it’s a better eating experience when you de-seed the plums beforehand.

7. You may add a tempering of mustard, asafoetida and dry red chillies to this Karonde Ki Chutney. I didn’t do so.

8. This is the first time I have made this Karonde Ki Chutney or Kalakai Sweet Pachadi, so I don’t have an exact idea of its shelf life. I am told that it keeps for at least 20 days when well cooked, refrigerated and used with a clean, dry spoon.

9. Don’t forget to stop cooking the chutney when it is still on the runnier side. It thickens up quite a bit upon cooling.

10. I make roasted cumin powder in small quantities and keep it bottled, to use as required. I dry roast a few tablespoons of cumin seeds in a pan on medium flame till they start crackling and turn fragrant. Then, I let them cool down completely and crush them coarsely in a small mixer jar.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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