South Africa is known for many dishes – the most iconic of all being
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.
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. Chatni is the Hindu word for a relish made with fruit and spices.
Mrs Adkins passed the recipe on to her daughter Amelia when Amelia married Mr Herbert Saddleton Ball, 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
How do you 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.
Soak the dried apricots and sultanas overnight in vinegar. The fruit plumps 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 size of small raisins. Tip the whole lot into a large saucepan (that has a lid).
Use the food processor to chop the onion and add them to the fruit in the saucepan. Once again, don’t chop too finely – keep them the same size as the chopped apricots.
My recipe calls for sherry vinegar, but you can substitute this for brown grape vinegar or any ‘fruity’ vinegar. Don’t use plain white or brown vinegar as it will taste too acidic
Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Now put the lid on, turn down the heat, and allow
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.
A note on the chilli
Mrs Balls Chutney
- 500 g Dried Apricots finely chopped
- 250 g Sultanas
- 500 g Onions finely chopped
- 350 ml Sherry Vinegar
- 500 ml Water
- 250 g White Sugar
- 1 teaspoon 5 (ml) 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). See Note 1
- Tip it all into a food processor and blend until roughly chopped. See Note 3.
- Place the mixture in a large saucepan
- Finely chop the onion and add to the fruit
- Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. See Note 4.
- 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 note 5.
- Cool and pour into sterilised jars and store in the fridge.
- The dried fruit absorbs the vinegar as it soaks overnight, and will be plumped up the next day.
- You can substitute the dried apricots for dried peaches if you want to make a peach chutney.
- When you chop the fruit and onions you don’t want them to become too finely blended. You are looking or a nice chunky chutney. Aim to get them the size of small raisins.
- This recipe calls for sherry vinegar, but you can substitute this for brown grape vinegar or any ‘fruity’ vinegar. Don’t use plain white or brown vinegar – the taste will be too acidic.
- The length of time you let the mixture simmer depends on how thick you would like your chutney to be. You are looking for the consistency of a nice sticky jam. Do remember that the mixture will thicken on cooling.
- As with all recipes you need to taste and adjust as you go along. If you think the chutney tastes too acidic then add a little more sugar. If it doesn’t have enough bite then add more chilli.
- The end result should be a sweet and tangy sticky chutney.
If you enjoyed this recipe why not pin it for later