Making good use of fruits is part of Deborah Taylor's heritage. She grew up in a farm community in western New York, "in peach, apple, pear, and grape country," she says. There, the self-taught cook learned an important maxim: "You use what you have."
As the founder of Deborah's Kitchen, a label known for flavorful fruit spreads, being practical comes in handy. On the Thanksgiving table, where everyone expects cranberries to accompany the main course, Taylor uses them in a chutney. But her cranberry chutney is just a little spicier than ordinary cranberry sauce. "I don't think cumin and a little hot pepper are going to turn anyone off," she says.
In the professional kitchen of Nuestra Culinary Ventures in Jamaica Plain, she stews a mixture of cranberries, orange - both the rind and the flesh - onion, and raisins. Chutney typically contains savory ingredients such as onion and spices as well as vinegar. The acidity cuts the sweetness and adds a vivid tang that sugar-laden cranberry sauce doesn't have. Taylor also adds a handful of raisins for a sweet note. And for earthy warmth, she stirs in cumin, fresh ginger, and crushed red pepper.
Some of her popular flavors are Forest Berries, which contains raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries; Mango Sunshine, which also boasts peaches; and an orange-flavored spread called Fig Ginger. Her newest, Pear Lime Limbo, which also contains pineapple, was an award winner at last summer's Fancy Food Show in New York.
"I conjure up tastes in my head and then try them out," says Taylor. She tests recipes in small batches until she finds a combination she likes. When she set out to create a business of the fruit spreads she had been making for years for family and friends, her focus was on low sugar, all-natural products. Her spreads contain 65 to 70 percent fruit; most jams, jellies and preserves have as much as 65 percent sugar.
Because the spreads are predominantly fruit, Taylor encourages anyone who uses them at home to think beyond the breakfast table. They're perfect for glazing salmon, pork chops, and chicken, she says, or for tossing with sautéed shrimp, chunks of roasted root vegetables, and salads. If you heat a spread gently, it liquefies and can be drizzled on foods.
Taylor describes many of her creations as "happy discoveries." The Massachusetts Rubies spread, with twice as many cranberries as raspberries and strawberries, was the result of exactly that combination, which happened to be left over one day in her freezer.
Her cranberry chutney evolved from the familiar flavors of the season, tweaked to satisfy the entrepreneur's preference for subtle spice and abundant orange. For first-time chutney makers, the zippy taste and gentle warmth might just be another happy discovery.
Deborah's Kitchen spreadable fruits and relishes are available at many stores or go to deborahs kitchen.com.