5-Spice Apple Chutney

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!

Kicked up with the Chinese 5-Spice Blend, lacto-fermented apple chutney has been rocking our house lately. I can’t keep enough of it on hand for the kids. They love to put a scoop of it in a bowl of kefir. We just went through 1/2 gallon of it in 3 days — and that was with me telling them not to take so much!


If you’ve not heard of Chinese 5-Spice, you’ll want to listen up, and then get or make some. (And then make the chutney, too, of course.) It is an amazing blend of five spices. Truly, the person who combined them was inspired.

You’ll find 5-spice in nice herb/spice departments, or you can easily make it yourself by mixing together equal parts of (all ground) anise, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and fennel. We often use it instead of cinnamon in oatmeal during the winter (see my 5-spice oatmeal), or muesli during the summer. People say that 5-spice is wonderful in marinades and rubs for meat. Delish!

Update Saturday 8/28/2010: I just made up a new batch of 5-spice, this time using spices from Mountain Rose Herbs. Oh, my! The best mix yet — very fragrant. I wish you could smell my kitchen!

I’m helping to host the Nourishing Jams, Jellies, Preserves and More! Blog Hop, along with Pamela and Diana.  My contribution is the following recipe for 5-spice apple chutney. Please visit the blog hop post where you’ll be able to see other preserves using natural sweeteners and/or natural methods of preservation.

Even though I’ve done my fair share of jams over the years, this year I really wanted to experiment more with chutneys and lacto-fermentation. At the moment, apples are pretty much the only chutney-suitable seasonal fruit available, so… apples got me started! We selected a box of local Gravenstein apples grown near the Umpqua River from a man who follows natural, beyond organic, growing methods. Oh, his apples are wonderful, worms and all! Don’t worry, there weren’t actually that many worms, and none of them got in the chutney.

I’m pretty much hooked on lacto-fermented chutneys. Talk about easy and satisfying. Nothing easier than doing some chopping, mixing, packing in a crock or jar, and waiting. The waiting is the hardest work. I’m eager for the pears, plums, and cherries to come in season so I can make other chutneys.

Why lacto-fermented? Lacto-fermented foods offer beneficial organisms to keep our guts healthy and our digestion optimum, and increased vitamins and enzymes. Foods preserved through lacto-fermentation are more nutritious than in their raw or cooked state. With canned and cooked produce, enzymes and vitamins are lost, and beneficial organisms are not given an opportunity to culture.

The downside with lacto-fermented fruit and vegetables is that they require cool storage after the fermentation stage is over. After that, the lacto-fermented fruits last only a few weeks. One must freeze them for long-term storage. Don’t despair, though! This is not so much a reason to avoid making lacto-fermented foods, but instead is an encouragement to embrace the seasonal opportunities that come our way. In other words, think not of extending the seasons, but rather embracing what the seasons offer.

Let’s get to the recipe.

5-Spice Apple Chutney (Lacto-Fermented)

Makes 1/2 gallon or 2 quarts.

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup whey
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 cups coarsely chopped apples*
  • 1/4 cup Rapadura, Sucanat, palm sugar or other natural sweetener
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or other nut**
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons 5-spice blend

*Wash, quarter, and core the apples, then coarsely chop by hand or in the food processor.

**I don’t believe the nuts need to be soaked ahead of time, as the fermentation should neutralize enzyme inhibitors.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Transfer to one clean half gallon jar, two quart jars, or a crock. Pack down so all ingredients are covered in liquid, and at least 1/2″ below the rim of the container. Add more water if necessary to submerge all ingredients. Cover tightly. My crock doesn’t have a lid, so I covered it with plastic wrap and secured it with a rubber band.

Let sit out at room temperature for two to three days. Daily, or as necessary, check for any mold growing on the surface and skim away, repacking carefully. Taste for desired texture. If the weather is very hot, fermentation may only take a day or so. Burp the jar if necessary (to prevent explosions). When you’re happy with the taste and texture, transfer to the refrigerator in an airtight container. Will keep for a few weeks.

Enjoy — I suggest a scoop in a bowl of kefir. Or alongside a grilled meat, or atop pancakes or waffles. Mmm…

Repack the storage container carefully after each dipping. Now wasn’t that easy?

You might also want to check out some jams I’ve posted in the past: Chunky Spiced Pear Jam and Blackberry Jam. Both feature Pomona’s Pectin as the non-sugar-dependent natural pectin. I look forward to your contributions in the Nourishing Jams, Jellies, Preserves and More! Blog Hop.

I’m also sharing this post with Fight Back Friday!

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!


  1. Sara W says

    Oh you are so lucky. We cannot get Pamonas here in Australia unless its ordered in especially.

    I am going to try your 5spice on Sunday so it can be ready mid week on soaked oats for breakfast.
    Thank you for your wonderful blog!

  2. says

    I am SO jealous each time you talk of your kids eating kefir and fermented foods so happily! I can barely get mine to eat them in smoothies and other highly disguised foods. UGH!!!

    I’ve only tried one fermented chutney so far – the cherry chutney recipe from NT. I had to cut back on the amount of salt though – way too much. I used both chopped cherries and whole cherries (with stems and pits). It was made probably about 5-6 weeks ago. Yesterday I opened the jar and it was super fizzy and the fruit strong tasting. Why does this only last a couple of weeks and the vegetable ferments last for months? Do you think I should toss it? I’m the only one eating it and I’m not eating it fast enough. Does it go bad or too fermented?

    • says

      Tara — I am hopeful that your kids will come around! I think my kids started on this road when they were younger than yours? That makes a difference.

      I agree that the salt is too much in NT! I based this recipe off a chutney in NT and I used about 1/4 of the salt, I think. Maybe 1/2. Can’t remember exactly.

      I think the chutneys/fruit ferments don’t last so long because of the sweet factor, which is more favorable to the bad organisms. I think the ferments can last longer, and in your case might be fine, but as a general rule, we can’t count on fruit ferments to go that long. I’m not sure you should toss it, if it is strong but not disgusting, it could be fine still. If you think it is still fine, why don’t you freeze some of it for later?

      • says

        Yeah, I have a hard time throwing anything away, so I’m sure I’ll find something to do with it. I’m wondering if the fermented fruit starts to have a higher alcohol content? These cherries are just getting fizzier and fizzier over time.

        Looking forward to apple season here. This summer has been so strange with the weather that everything is a bit late. I’ll have to take extra care to find some organic pick your own apple orchards here.

        • says

          Ah, yes… the alcohol factor. That’s right! I never get that far with my ferments. Why don’t you squeeze all the juice out of the cherries and drink that? :) Toss the cherries in a smoothie or dressing or something, or marinade.

  3. says

    I’d never thought of lacto fermenting fruits before. This sounds worthy of so many fruits either by themselves or a combination. I have a table full of pears freshly picked recently and they are all about ready to do something with them. I’m going to give this a whirl with some of them. Even have some fresh whey as I write on the counter I’ll be bottling up this morning once my raw milk yogurt cheese is done dripping. Hmmm, just had an inspiration to pears with some wild blackberries added!!
    And many thanks to you for hosting with me!

    • says

      Pamela — Oh, I agree! So many hard fruits could be chutnied! I am excited to try some others. I love chutneys and relishes. The pear/blackberry combination sounds yummy. I have not added berries to a ferment — let me know how they turn out, the texture? THANK YOU for this great blog hop idea, Pamela! I hope many more will participate to share ideas and recipes.

  4. says

    Wardee, I’ve been wanting to experiment with lacto-fermented chutneys but the short expiration time in the fridge had prevented me from doing so. You are so right though, I was thinking in terms of preserving the season instead of embracing the season. Loved that!! I’m definitely going to try this recipe :) Wonderful post and the chutney looks so delicious!

    • says

      Diana — Well, I was talking to myself and hoping it would encourage others. I learned about embracing the season from Annette @ Sustainable Eats. She is so good at that! Enjoy the chutney. :)

  5. says

    How long does this keep in the fridge? I just got a huge amount of apples from my Dad and want to keep the enzymes intact instead of canning applesauce.

    • says

      Shannon — It should last a few weeks. I don’t think you can count on more than 2 to 3, but it could last longer if conditions are right. If in doubt, freeze a week’s portion. This is the best! We were given a box of apples yesterday from our naturopath, and they’re going into chutney just as soon as I can get in the kitchen.

  6. Sara Harvey says

    Wardee, how do you do it!? Every time I check in to your blog, I find more wonderful ideas I *really* want to try!! I can’t keep up! Thanks so much for sharing.

    • says

      Sara — So sweet of you. I am glad you find inspiration here. That blesses me! I feel like I’m really behind in life right now, and not doing nearly what I want to do in the kitchen, so thanks for the encouragement. Blessings to you and yours!

  7. Mallory Sanders says

    This sounds and looks wonderful! I am new to fermentation because it has always seemed scary and difficult, but you make it seem approachable! I do have a question though; if I make this in a jar (like a mason jar), do I screw the lid on tightly while it is fermenting, or would that be too airtight (do I want it airtight?)?

    Also, will it be liquidy or does most of the moisture get absorbed?

    Thank you for helping me be brave enough to try!

    • says

      Mallory — With lacto-fermentation (this kind anyway, of fruits and veggies), the fermentation happens under cover of brine, without oxygen. It really doesn’t matter whether you cover the container or not, or whether it is airtight. Whatever you do, the very top of the mixture is going to be exposed to the organisms in the air. And that’s where mold will grow if the conditions are favorable. That can be skimmed off because under that, everything’s safe and sound and under the protection of lactobacilli, in most cases anyway.

      I like to tightly cover my containers to minimize the outside organisms coming and going. I also use airlocks (check out this DIY one), which lets air out from the fermenting organisms, but prevents air entering the jar.

      The texture of this is like a relish, but it is not that watery. It is definitely less watery than salsa for instance.

      I hope you try this! It is an easy and delicious way to get into LFing!

  8. Jed says

    I bought some 5-spice last night at the co-op, still need some more items for making the chutney but gotta tell you–the spice makes the house smell unbelievably good. Can’t wait to make the chutney. Thanks!

    • says

      Jed — Exciting! I hope you get the other ingredients soon to try this!

      I just finished mixing up a fresh batch of 5-spice and then a new gallon of chutney with apples just given to us. This time I used herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs for the mix, and the quality is so much better than what I used before. The fresh batch of chutney is going to be that much better, I’m sure.

  9. Kari says

    Hi! This looked so amazing that I had to whip a batch up but I’m a little concerned seeing as I’m new to this lacto-fermenting stuff. I packed it into a half gallon jar but the liquid only came a quarter of the way up, so I’m not sure if I messed something up and if that would be too much water to whey ratio if I filled the jar the rest of the way up with water. Also, how do you know when its done fermenting? Thank you so much for your help!

    • says

      Kari — The fruit should release some liquid from the salt, so likely you’ve got more in there than you think. Adding water is okay. The salt and the whey will hold back the bad bacteria until the lactobacilli dominate.

      Often, you’ll see lots of bubbles during the first days (but not usually the very first) of a LF, and when the bubbles slow down, that is a sign that it is done. But also taste! It should be “bright” or bubbly from the carbon dioxide given off by the lactobacilli. Also, the ingredients may be softer or crisper from the process. Really, I go by bubbliness that I like and taste.

      Hope you like it!

  10. Anne says

    Here’s a question from someone totally new to this: Since I don’t have access to fresh whey is it possible to use reconstituted whey in this recipe–such as Bob’s Red Mill Sweet Dairy Whey?

    • says

      Anne — You can’t use any processed whey. It must be fresh with living lactobacilli. You can get it from store-bought yogurt with active cultures — can you get that?

  11. Anne says

    Yes, I have active culture yogurt. Do I just use straight yogurt in the recipe or is the whey from the yogurt something different (the watery stuff that sometimes separates)? I’m making your spelt sourdough sandwich bread today here in a remote indigenous community in Mexico where my husband facilitates community development. So your expertise is being appreciated far and wide! Thanks so much.

    • says

      Anne — Drip out the whey from the yogurt through cheesecloth. Two layers of 90 count or a cotton sheet is what I’d use, as regular cheesecloth holes are too big. Or if you can get enough of it that’s separated in your yogurt container, that will work too. Don’t use the yogurt — just the liquid. If a bit of yogurt gets in, it is okay. Fun to think of you making the bread in Mexico! :)

  12. Lori says

    This looks delicious!! I am however a bit nervous about the fennel in the five spice mix. Does is taste like the nasty Mother’s Milk tea or italian sausage? Maybe I will just try it or I could always make four spice chutney :) I was thinking of trying this with pears. Do you think that would work? And if I were to use honey would I need to put it in after fermenting so it won’t try to kill the good bacteria?

    • says

      Lori — I really don’t know what Mother’s Milk tea tastes like anymore — been a long time. But I would say that if any flavor is stronger than the others it is the anise (licorice). You can always leave out the fennel and it will be very good! I think it definitely would work with pears. On the honey issue, I *believe* that as long as the honey is diluted it doesn’t impede fermentation (think mead). That’s my thinking, anyway.

      Hope you like this!

  13. Jed says

    WOW, just had my first bowl and it was really, really good. I let it sit for 2 days and it did have a little bit of the fuzzy on top so I scrapped it off.

    I eat it with some of the yogurt I used to get my whey and added a touch of maple syrup. I used realy crisp, tart apples and mixed with the honey and yogurt–it all made for a great lunch. Last night I made a “batch” of the tortillas so dinner tomorrow will be chutney, tortilla’s and some homemade pickles–Yumm, yumm.

    Thanks again Wardee and everyone whose contributed with your helpful comments. I am learning and growing everyday and you are all a part of my homesteading activities.

    ps. I also have tomatoes simmering down so I can do some canning this afternoon. I can’t believe how far I have come in the last 3 years–I’m actually canning now!

    • says

      Jed, you’re just an inspiration. :) I’m so happy you made this! Describing it, you’re making me hungry. I haven’t had breakfast yet anyway, so I think I’ll go get a bowl of this with kefir. We have a fresh batch and the fresh spices made it over the top good.

      Enjoy the canning! You’ll look into your cupboards with joy during the winter!

  14. says

    Wardee, as yours was sitting out did it ever get bubbly like most ferments do? I put this together on monday and it’s been sitting out for a few days now. No bubbles. But no mold either. I tasted it and it tastes fine. I’m not used to the five spice flavor, but I think I’m gonna like it.

    Right now I’m having a bowl of raw milk yogurt with some of this chutney on top.

    • says

      Tara, mine doesn’t get super bubbly, no. Nothing like salsa or ginger-carrots, which bubble all over the place! I’m glad you’ll like it. The 5-spice definitely takes an adjustment. If you find it is too strong, you can cut back on the amount next time and use other spices instead.

  15. Merina says

    Can I use water kefir as a direct substitution for the whey? I have a dairy allergic toddler. Also, should the ferment in the dark or the light if I’m using glass jars? This is my first venture into lacto-fermentation.

  16. Susan, OCC says

    This is really wonderful stuff!

    I used Aunt Patty’s (in Eugene also) 5 Spice, which has a bit of orange peel added to it. The next time I put in an order to Mountain Rose Herbs, I will try some of their 5 Spice.

    Do you think this would work with dried, unsweetened cranberries for Thanksgiving?

    Susan, OCC

  17. Tonya Y says

    I just made this for the first time. How do you keep all of the apple mixture below the fluid surface? I keep on getting floaters bobbing up despite how much I press it all down. If these floaters get moldy, will it ruin the batch?

    • says

      Tonya — It is inevitable that the very top pieces won’t be all the way under the brine/fluid. If they get moldy, no it shouldn’t ruin the whole batch. Everything that’s submerged is protected from spoiling and any spoiling at the surface can be skimmed away. It is probably going to be fine! :)

  18. Jenn says

    Thanks so much for your blog, Wardee! We as a family have recently begun to use whole foods -you can hear one of us at any time of day chanting the GNOWFGLINS acronym. The recipes and ideas are so helpful as we start our journey! Anyway, I have two questions: 1) Is there any substitute I can use for kefir and whey and the like? I have a no-dairy or egg person in the family, but am enticed by the delicious lacto-fermented recipes. 2) We also have a doctor in the family which is, of course, a great blessing, but that also gives said person a suspicious mind (good thing in a lot of “nutrition” cases today, too). However, said person won’t believe a single thing about the release of phytic acid, etc., so does not see the point in soaking and sprouting. Could you point me to concrete scientific information from credible sources on the subject? Thanks and sorry for the long comment. By the way, this chutney looks SCRUMPTIOUS!

    • says

      Jenn — Ooops, soory for my late reply here! I’m really glad to hear from you!

      1) You can use water kefir in any lacto-ferment in place of the whey.
      2) I take it the research into traditional cultures by the Weston A. Price Foundation is not considered credible by your said person? :) You could also look at the books by Janie Quinn on sprouting, though she relies on the WAPF like I do. Personally, I am not so interested in concrete scientific evidence because most the evidence at our disposal and in the media is twisted and set up to favor the current nutritional trends. I would much rather look at history and traditional practices and the health of the people who followed them. Those people were free of modern diseases and had good teeth and strong bones. The research I have done shows that traditional cultures the world over did soak, sprout and ferment. Their health and their habits go hand in hand, in my opinion.

  19. annalise says

    I am in the process of trying the pineapple chutney out of nt. I hope it won’t be too salty after reading these posts. =( Have you ever done pineapple?

  20. says

    hi and thank you so much for this recipe. just curious about your use of whey and if you feel this fermentation can be done without it or if there is a substitute for it?
    thanks for your help

  21. Sonia says

    I can’t find any raisins that don’t have other stuff on them, can I substitute anything else or leave them out? Will that change the flavour too much?

  22. Renee says

    Hi! Thanks for the wonderful idea here…I am wondering if there is any way to do this dairy free..anaphylatic son with dairy and nuts….so I would use pumpkin seeds instead, but don’t know what to do for the whey. Would any coconut milk products work???

  23. says

    I made this wonderful chutney and have been enjoying it all week with plain yogurt. Yesterday I added oatmeal to the mix (soaked in yogurt of course). It is absolutely wonderful and I plan to make a full batch this coming weekend. Thank you for sharing these wonderful ideas.

  24. says

    Yum! I used 7 cups chopped apples and left out the raisins. I also used less five-spice powder… mine is very licorice-y. :)

    I would make this again, and use a blend of cinnamon and nutmeg instead.

  25. lara says

    Chutney looks wonderful. Thank you . Can I ask you a quick question. I like making raspberry/berry jam by cooking the frozen berries down to release the flavour with a little lemon juice. IF you cook the fruit can you still add some whey in after it has cooled and fement or does the fruit have to be raw

  26. rose says

    I would like to make this for my 1 year old and we don’t use any sweeteners except for the raisins. Will this recipe work without added sweetener? Also, do you know if the 5 spice blend is safe for a 1 year old and also a pregnant mama? Thank you! :)

  27. Janknitz says

    This is awesome! I made a few changes:
    1) I used homemade kombucha instead of whey
    2) I used dry cherries in place of raisins.

    I use a glass tea light candle holder as a “jar weight” to keep the solids under the brine and a Recap jar lid with an airlock. So I had no mold issues.

    What a yummy treat! Thanks for posting it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.