South Africa is known for many dishes – the most iconic of all being
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The history of Mrs Balls Chutney
Mention Mrs Balls chutney to any South African and you will see their eyes immediately light up, and their mouths start to water.
It is the most delicious chutney, made with dried fruit, with a hint of chilli. It is used to add flavour to stews and curries, or served as a side dip with cold meat or pies.
There’s quite a bit of history around Mrs Balls Chutney. The story goes that a certain Mr and Mrs Adkins were on a ship sailing from Canada to South Africa back in the 1860s. While on the ship Mrs Adkins was given the recipe for chutney by one of the Indian chefs. Chutney is the anglicised version of the Hindu word ‘Chatni’, meaning a relish made with fruit and spices.
Once the family had settled back in South Africa, Mrs Adkins began making the chutney and it proved to be very popular amongst her friends and family. When her daughter, Amelia, got married to Mr Herbert Saddleton Ball, Mrs Adkins passed the recipe on to her, and Amelia cooked and sold the chutney to help with the family finances. She named her chutney Mrs H.S.Balls Chutney, using her husband’s initials as was the custom in those days. The chutney proved so popular that the business expanded, and was eventually passed on to Amelia’s sons, who ran the business until it was bought out by one of the big food manufacturers in South Africa.
Amelia Ball passed away in 1962 at the age of 97, leaving South African families everywhere the legacy of her amazing chutney.
I found a lovely video of an advert for Mrs Balls Chutney that I’d like to share
- Prep time – 15 minutes
- Soaking time – 12 hours
- Cooking time – 30 minutes
- Yield – 2 x 500ml jars
- Calories – 155 per 100 ml
- Main equipment – large saucepan with lid – I like these saucepans because they have non-metal handles.
How to make
Mrs Balls Chutney
The original recipe is a closely guarded secret. During my research on how to make it I’ve come across many variations.
Some people say you should make it with dried apricots, others say you should use dried peaches. Some say to soak the dried fruit in vinegar overnight, others say soak in water.
If you want to make the peach version then just substitute the dried apricots for dried peaches.
Anyway, I’ve come up with the recipe which I think is pretty close to the original taste. I’ve used a mixture of dried apricots, sultanas and onion, and even if it is not 100% authentic, I think it tastes pretty good.
What you will need to make chutney
Whenever I read a recipe I like to have a look at the ingredients to see whether I have everything I need. To make it easy for you – I’ve listed the ingredients below. You can get the full list of ingredients and instructions to make this recipe on the printable recipe card further down in the post.
This recipe makes approximately 500ml jars (or 1 litre) of chutney.
- Dried Apricots – you need to chop these to the size of sultanas
- Onions – chopped to the size of sultanas
- Sherry vinegar – or any ‘fruity’ vinegar – don’t use plain white or malted brown vinegar or the chutney will taste too acidic.
- White sugar
- Dried Chilli Flakes – you can adjust this quantity according to your own taste
How to make Mrs Balls Chutney
- Place the dried apricots and sultanas in a large bowl and cover with the vinegar. Cover and leave to stand overnight. This allows the fruit to plump up as the vinegar gets absorbed.
- Next day, blend the soaked fruit in a food processor (along with the soaking liquid). Don’t allow the apricots to become too finely chopped – you want them to be the same size as the sultanas.
- Tip the whole lot into a large saucepan (that has a lid).
- Use the food processor to chop the onions and add them the fruit in the saucepan.
- Once again, don’t chop too finely – keep them the same size as the chopped apricots.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil.
- Place the the lid on the pan, turn down the heat, and allow
tosimmer for at 30 to 45 minutes until the mixture becomes thick and syrupy.
- If it’s still not thick enough after this time, just simmer a bit longer. You are looking for the consistency of a nice sticky jam. Do remember however that the mixture will thicken on cooling.
- As with all recipes you need to taste and adjust the flavour as you go along.
- If you find the chutney is too acidic you can add a touch more sugar. If you want it hotter, add more chilli.
- This is quite a sweet chutney and the final result should be sweet and tangy.
- Pour into
jars and keep in your fridge until you are ready to use. This chutney improves with age, and will keep for weeks in the fridge. sterilised
A note on the chilli
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Other South African recipes
While you are here, why not try some of my other South African recipes:
- Bobotjie – a traditional Cape Malay dish of spicy curried mince beef baked in a savoury egg custard and served over rice.
- Lamb bredie – a delicious lamb stew made with succulent lamb ribs, cooked in a pressure cooker with vegetables
- Quick and easy beef Trinchado – tender strips of beef in a thick tomato and onion based sauce, spiced with garlic, peri-peri and red wine.
- Samosas with cheese and sweetcorn – a popular delicacy made with deep fried pastry stuffed with a mixture of curry-flavoured cheese and sweetcorn.
- Peri peri chicken livers – tasty chicken livers in a peri-peri flavoured tomato and onion sauce.
Update – I’ve just perfected my green tomato chutney recipe (which I think is even better than Mrs Balls 🙂 )
This recipe was number one on my top 10 recipes for December 2019
Recipe – Mrs Balls Chutney
Mrs Balls Chutney
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- Spatula for mixing
- Glass jars for storage
- 1 lb / 450 grams dried apricots finely chopped
- 8 ounce / 225 grams sultanas
- 1 lb / 450 grams onions finely chopped
- 1½ cups / 350 ml sherry vinegar
- 2 cups / 500 ml water
- 1⅓ cups / 250 grams white sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes more or less to your own taste
- Soak the apricots and sultanas overnight in the vinegar (about 12 hours).1 lb / 450 grams dried apricots, 8 ounce / 225 grams sultanas, 1½ cups / 350 ml sherry vinegar
- Tip it all into a food processor and blend until roughly chopped.
- Place the mixture in a large saucepan
- Finely chop the onion and add to the fruit1 lb / 450 grams onions
- Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.2 cups / 500 ml water, 1⅓ cups / 250 grams white sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- Bring to the boil then turn the heat down and put the lid on the saucepan
- Simmer for 30 – 45 minutes until the mixture is thick and syrupy. It will thicken further on cooling. See notes.
- Cool and pour into sterilised jars and store in the fridge.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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I can’t wait to try making this. I live in SA but since Mrs Balls was taken over by big business it is a shadow of its former glory. The last bottles I bought were little more than flavoured gloop, and they will be the last bottles I ever buy. Now I am looking forward to making my own. Thank you for recreating this.
The real Mrs Balls recipe that I came across has 80% Dried Peaches and 20% Dried apricots. No sultanas. The important ingredient is the Brown Spirit Vinegar. I managed to get the Safari brand ex SA from a SA shop here in Ireland. The important thing in the making is that you must let the fruit soak in the vinegar overnight. You must also get the texture just right. I will try the sultanas in a future batch. Thanks this alternative.
Mrs Balls chutney is one of the things that I really miss about South Africa, and there are so many versions of the recipe out thereon the internet. I’ve tried to recreate it as well as I could, and even if it’s not 100%, I’ve been told many times that it’s an acceptable alternative. I hope you try it and enjoy it.
I cant wait to try this, left South Africa 2 years ago and today, was making curry and missed my Mrs Balls. Thank you for the recipe.
If you boil the filled jars, will it become shelf storage stable? I’d love to make a big batch and store in the pantry
Yes, as long as your jars are properly sterilised you can keep this in the pantry.
We are South Africans living in NZ now. Your recipe will be our next task! It is so expensive to purchase out here, so we will give your recipe a go! Mrs. Ball’s Chutney is like Guinness to an Irishman, can’t go one day without it!
Ha ha – love your comment ‘like Guinness to an Irishman’. Hope you enjoy the chutney 🙂
It’s lovely to meet you, I too lived in South Africa for many years, I’ve always loved cooking and like you collect recipes and and tweak them. Mrs Balls has been a part of my life for years never without a jar. Will give your version a go bet its amazing.
Thank you – I think it comes pretty close 🙂
It is a remarkable recipe. What I do is stir in a small amount to cooked rice to givr it an umami boost.
Have made this twice and both times turned out perfect. Couldn’t find sultanas so used raisins and also had to substitute red wine vinegar for sherry vinegar. Thanks you so much!!
Thanks for your lovely comment – so pleased it turned out well for you. I really enjoy this chutney myself!
How many litres of chutney will I be able to get from this recipe
Thanks for sharing
This recipe will make approximately 2 x 500 ml jars of chutney (or 1 litre).
It is stated on the recipe card, but I have now also updated the actual blog post to note this as well.
Hello! Yesterday, I came across Mrs. H.S. Ball’s Original Recipe Chutney in the Publix Supermarket here in Snellville, Georgia, USA! Of course, I had to have it but now that I do, I have no idea what to do with it! I see you suggest adding it to stews and curries. Can you give me an idea how much to use? (You don”t want to know the mistake I made when I sent my daughter to school with a Marmite sandwich.) Can I use it as a chutney with some Indian dishes in place of the Tamarind Chutney? Any suggestions and lessons would be appreciated.
Chutney is a condiment and you would typically use it sparingly.
If you want to flavour stews and curries, then 1 to 2 tablespoons would be ample.
Spread a teaspoonful on sandwiches, along with a slice of ham, or cold chicken.
Mix a tablespoonful into a cup of cream cheese for a delicious dip for chips (potato crisps).
You could use it in place of Tamarind Chutney, however it wouldn’t give the same ‘sour’ tang that you get with Tamarind Chutney as this is a sweet chutney.
When I lived in South Africa, it was common to serve a dish of curry topped with a teaspoon of chutney and sprinkled with desiccated
coconut and sliced bananas.
I use Mrs Balls chutney to make a barbeque marinade for chicken thighs and drumsticks. Just mix 2 tablespoons chutney with 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup, 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add sufficient water to make up 1 cup. Place the chicken pieces in a saucepan, cover with the marinade and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill on the barbeque, until the chicken is nicely browned on the outside (about 5 minutes per side). Use a pair of tongs to dip the chicken in the marinade while you are grilling it. Cooking the chicken in this way not only gives it a great flavour, but makes it lovely and juicy, and helps the grilled chicken to cook all the way through to the bone without burning the outside.
Hope this helps and gives you some ideas for using the chutney.
Thanks for the tip. It is very useful.
My pleasure 🙂
It is great, just can not find the right vinegar, Which are the fruity vinegars I can use. Do you think Red Wine vinegar would do the trick.
Any help in this regard will be greatly appreciated.
Hi Kevin – yes red or white wine vinegar would do the trick.
Thank you, how long can one keep it before it goes bad?
To be honest I’m not sure because it’s never gone off! It lasts indefinitely if you keep it in the fridge. My last batch was still good after 6 months. 🙂
Ohhhh I can not wait to try this ! Been looking for a good ” close to Mrs Balls ”
How long will this last in the fridge ? Is there a certain time to be consumed?
Will let you know how it turns out here in France !
Hi Paul – I hope you try it – it’s my favourite chutney. As long as you place it into sterilised jars it will keep for up to 3 months (or longer) in the fridge. The flavour improves with age too – so there’s no time for it to be consumed by.
Have you made this with fresh fruit ?
Have an overload of fresh peaches.
No, I haven’t tried it with fresh fruit but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. If you do make it with fresh fruit, I’d love to know how it turned out.
I am going to try this out this weekend. Will let you know how it works out – Dave
That’s great – I hope you enjoy it. My daughter reckons it comes pretty close to Mrs Balls original 🙂