Mum’s Cherry Chutney – Perfect with Turkey or Ham

When I was growing up there were a lot of traditions to be observed.  Christmas had the bulk of these traditions.

On Christmas Eve my mother would be up at around half past five to begin a day spent in the kitchen and in the climbing heat.

Cherry Chutney

Cherry Chutney

In the early evening my father would gather all of us around the antique (and out of tune) piano and with sheet music in front of him, pound out some carols and we would all sing along.  The lights on the Christmas tree would be tinkering and the candles would be lit and after the sing-a-long mum would disappear into the kitchen and return with a bouche de noel.

As Chgo John would say, the bouche de noel is ‘coming soon to a monitor near you’.

You need to pit the cherries

You need to pit the cherries

After the bouche de noel had been devoured with Christmas carols belting out from the record player (and we had about three records to choose from), we were allowed to open one present from under the tree.  We had some American friends who every year sent us a decoration and so these were the presents we were allowed to open.  These gifts were hung on the tree on the most noticeable branches and then it was off to church.

Yes, there was a midnight carol service except it didn’t start at midnight, it started at 11pm and finished at midnight with everyone (seeing it was now Christmas Day), hugging and kissing each other and sounding out, ‘Merry Christmas’.  It would have been unbearably hot in the church with everyone fanning themselves with the evening’s program and many wondering why it was the stained glass windows couldn’t be opened to allow in a breeze.

After the service the minister would stand on the steps of the church and as you left you would shake his hand and wish him a Merry Christmas.  We then stood around for ages chatting to friends and neighbours under the sparkling lights of conifer trees lit up for Christmas and any chance of a good night’s sleep quickly disappearing.

Christmas Day always started early and I think I hold the record for waking the earliest.  We had Santa Sacks at the end of our beds and I think at around 3.30am I would wake to see if Santa had been.  I would scurry down to the end of my bed to see if anything had been put in my Santa Sack.  With unbelievable delight and a joy I was unable to contain, I would wake my two sisters (who shared my bedroom) to let them know, Santa had been.

About to spoon the chutney into the sterilised jars

About to spoon the chutney into the sterilised jars

Probably my parents had only laid down in bed a few minutes prior but alas, I was awake for the day.  I was forbidden to open my presents before the first light of day but that didn’t stop me from dragging my Santa Sack from the foot of my bed up to my pillows where I pinched and squeezed every single gift ceaselessly until it was time to be allowed out of bed.

Christmas Day was hectic.  And it started early.  Earlier than my parents would have liked.  We were allowed to open our presents from Santa but all other gifts had to stay wrapped.  There was no time to open them; we had to get to church.  So somehow dressed in something Santa had thoughtfully delivered, we would make our way to our 5-seater car for seven of us where my father was already tense as a board and revving the engine and honking the horn because we’d all taken so long to get ready (a long time is approximately two and a half minutes).

Once we were all accounted for we headed towards the local church that was but a few minutes away and once we arrived we discovered (as usual) that all the convenient parking spaces were taken, and so we’d have to beetle back – almost as far back as our own driveway.

We then had to sprint, (in the burning sun and our new high heels – Santa gift), down to the church where obviously, the service to glorify the arrival of our Lord, had already begun.  The church was a stunning old sandstone building with incredible stained glass windows and old wooden pews and a long, long, long aisle.  As luck would have it, every year we seemed to be the last to arrive.

Perfect with turkey and ham

Perfect with turkey and ham

The opening carol would be in full swing when we arrived at the entrance of the church.  All eyes would turn to the late arrivals.  All the seating at the back of the church would be taken leaving a front row, a newly formed front row in front of the regular front row (to allow for an extra swelling in the congregation) was spare.

My family of seven would have to do a ‘walk of shame’ down the entire length of the aisle as everyone winked and nodded and laughed at us as we passed by.  My father was horrendously embarrassed and could never understand (to this day) why it was that his family was always the last to arrive.

After the service we had a ‘meet and greet’ and then went home to open the rest of the presents and get on with Christmas Day.  One of the things my mother would have made on Christmas Eve is this Cherry Chutney.  It is the best chutney ever and works so well with hot baked ham and freshly roasted turkey.  When it’s cooking the aroma from the kitchen is wonderful and special and smelling of all things Christmasy.  If it’s not cherry season in your part of the world, I’m sure this recipe would work equally well with frozen cherries – just make sure they’re pitted!

Mum's Cherry Chutney - Perfect with Turkey or Ham
Recipe type: Preserves
Cuisine: Christmas Fare
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 cups
A wonderful chutney to serve with turkey and ham at Christmas time. It makes a fabulous gift as well.
  • 1 large brown onion, chopped
  • 2 medium green apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • ⅔ cup castor sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • rind of 2 oranges
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs freshly grated ginger
  • 500g cherries, stones removed
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ cup sultanas
  • 8 white peppercorns
  1. Put the onions and apples in a large stainless steel saucepan and bring to the boil with the sugars, juice vinegar, orange rind and ginger.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered for 1 hr and 15 minutes or until thick and syrupy.
  3. Bottle while hot into sterile jars.
  4. Serve with baked ham or turkey or both.

This recipe has been adapted from a newspaper clipping from many years ago.  The author of this recipe is unknown.

Cherry Chutney

Cherry Chutney

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  1. they seem so beautiful and should be so delicious too… I love homemade… Thank you, love, nia

  2. Your traditions sound very hectic – no wonder pancakes seem appropriate to fuel you through the intensity of Christmas itself! I would love this cherry chutney with anything I think, although I wonder if I could bring myself to put fresh cherries into a saucepan. I think it would be a worthy sacrifice to do so though.

  3. Wow! that was a pretty busy Christmas! I love the sound of this chutney but it really isn’t cherry season here and even when it is they are very, very expensive. Still I’m going to blow the budget and make this chutney, it looks so fab. GG

  4. Oh Charlie! Your Christmas day sounds very familiar! We too would ALWAYS rock up late to Church and have all eyes on us. Made me chuckle!
    I have to say I haven’t seen cherries for cheap around here yet, still around $20 a kilo, but when they do come down I’m going to pounce!

  5. Your mum’s cherry chutney sounds wonderful and perfect for Christmas Day and the jars look so pretty and Christmassy. Loved the description of your family’s Christmas Eve/mornings!

  6. I can’t help but feel for your Mum cooking for 2 days in the heat. We nearly always ate out on Christmas Day – usually Chinese which is slightly ironic now. I bet you could use tinned black cherries too – do you think? Cherry chutney sounds perfect with ham or turkey.

  7. Oh, what tasty looking chutney. Perfect for holiday meals.

  8. You have the most wonderful Christmas memories. Participating in the children’s Christmas Eve service at church is among my most treasured memories.

  9. This is such a lovely recipe! Something I definitely want to make. It took me forever to figure out that although Golden Delicious have a similar name to “Delicious” apples, they are actually two different kinds. Good thing, since I always thought regular Delicious apples a bit weak-flavored. Really good recipe – thanks.

  10. I am making a pear chutney to take as a hostess gift to a Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. If only I had access to cherries, you can bet I would make this instead! Lovely recipe.

  11. Holiday chutney just got even better 😀
    Love the flavour in it!


  12. I’d love to use your home made chutney than the store bought stuff anyday!

  13. What lovely Christmas memories and every time you open a jar of this cherry chutney you can remember all those great times. The jars are so pretty with their colorful wrappings.

  14. Oh now this is simply beautiful! Love the post, the story, and what a lovely recipe.

  15. I’m grinning broadly after reading through your traditions and memories. 🙂 This chutney sounds divine!!

  16. What lovely memories Charlie. We too were allowed to open (still are) one present on Christmas Eve carefully selected by mum from under the tree. I think the earliest I ever woke up was 4.30 but mum and dad set a time limit of 5.30 I think. Oh what a long day it must have been for our parents back then!

  17. You tell the tale excellently and have put a very big smile on my face ~ slightly different experiences, BUT . . . 🙂 !

  18. G’day I LOVE cherries, Charlie, true!
    I always love hearing the stories and memories preserved behind the scenes and Mum’s Cherry Chutney sounds divine tasting too!
    Cheers! Joanne

  19. I don’t think I’ve seen cherry chutney ever! What a fabulous sounding recipe. I always look forward to cherry season 🙂

  20. What fun memories Charlie! I well remember waiting until dawn to open my Santa Sack presents- it seemed like forever!!!
    This chutney really does sound lovely, I think I’ll try it to go with the ham.
    PS I hope your mum’s health is improving? X

  21. Wonderful recipes, but even more important to me, wonderful memories. I loved these recollections, Charlie. You can always tell a good story, but I particularly enjoy stories from your childhood. I can just picture you as a little girl with the enthusiasm of the Christmas spirit. Very nicely told!

  22. I’m with Lorraine there. I love this story it remains me of my childhood ( except Mum hated cooking).

  23. What a lovely read Charlie and lovely recipe to boot.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  24. I love your Christmas and while I had a cold Christmas, I can relate to being late to church, the family all around for the holiday.

  25. Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Hoping your Thanksgiving is filled with blessings and joy.

  26. Great post! Fabulous chutney!

  27. Looks beautiful Charlie! Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

  28. Ohh this sounds so familiar, except that we trundled to church in the cold and sometimes snow! Peeling off the layers of new clothes as the church filled and then rugging back up to hit the weather again afterwards. That cherry chutney is a must make!

  29. Love reading your posts, as I was reading it I was picturing your family doing these things, though I have never seen them (Maybe you should put up a pic of your family when you were young lol). Have an awesome weekend 🙂

  30. You really stirred some warm memories with this beautiful post, Charlie, some that I’d not thought about in years. Thank you for that. Thanks, too, for the shout out. I look forward to seeing how you make your Bouche de Noel.
    Why, though, oh, why are you making a liar out of me? Not even 6 hours ago, while seated at the Thanksgiving table, I gave everyone a jar of jam, telling them all that I’m out of the jam/canning business until next year. I’ve put the canning kettle away and I refuse to buy another jar in 2013. Then I come here and you post this chutney recipe. You know I’ve got to make some. I’d like to try it with some of the sour cherries in my freezer. Is it a lie if I don’t tell anyone that I’m making chutney? Hmmm … Thanks for sharing your Christmas memories and chutney recipe. Both were simple wonderful.

  31. I think the cherry chutney looks so good! I printed out your recipe, but I think I’m going to have to use frozen cherries, as they are nowhere to be found in winter!

    I loved hearing your childhood Christmas story. 🙂

  32. Your Christmas sounds much like ours. I was always the earliest riser, but never quite that early. We always we to church on Christmas Eve, until we were old enough to protest. I do love the busy of Christmas Day!

  33. I’ve always loved the 11pm service (as long as it isn’t backed up by the 9am the next day!). It’s such a calm way to see in Christmas, considering the frenzy of the day itself. 🙂

  34. I made cherry chutney as gifts last year. love cherries and the season here is so short, I’ll do anything to extend my pleasure in these gorgeous red globes!

  35. We never tried cherry chutney! Looks really good!

  36. I love when cherries are in season here in America, I devour so many of them! This chutney recipe is lovely, and would be perfect for any holiday dinner! Beautiful, Hugs, Terra

  37. Hi Charlie – aren’t Christmas traditions wonderful? Just today I was talking about some of my own with my mother-in-law! I can’t imagine what it must be like to have Christmas in summer. For me that would just be… so unreal. I’m used to coldness, or at the very least… “coat weather and a spot of rain”, lol!

    The cherry chutney looks wonderful. Unfortunately cherries are totally out of season here but I’d love to make this in the summer and adapt it a bit to some summer barbecues maybe, or maybe it would keep until Christmas.

    By the way, I should point out, as your friendly ex-France-inhabitant, that it should actually be “bûche” de noël. Otherwise it’s a “Christmas mouth”, which sounds like an interesting thing, but probably isn’t as delicious as a lovely log :D.

    • Thanks so much for letting me know, Charles, especially as I’m cooking one tomorrow! My French is so bad, despite being forced to learn it at school. I think the problem is that Downunder, we are so far from anyone speaking French! But…I’m off to New Caledonia in January – maybe I’ll pick up a phrase or two! I’m sure you could make the chutney towards the end of your cherry season then keep it for Christmas. It should keep well if packed into sterilised jars.

  38. I am sure that having three daughters (at least the ones you mentioned, although there may have been more) probably slowed down the ‘geting-ready’ process for your father! Our Christmas is full of traditions too, but I cannot imagine doing it all in sweltering heat. At least in the cold we have a good excuse to be trapped all day in a warm kitchen ;o)

  39. Loved this recipe! I tweeked it a bit. Added lemon rind, all spice and some chili powder and replaced the sultanas with finely chopped dates.


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