There are still a few more weeks or so left in mango season. We know the end of the season is a sad time for a lot of you, but it also may come as a relief if you’re somebody who can’t figure out what to do with all the fruit your trees yielded.
That was part of the conundrum facing Mae Miller and her partner, Dave, a few years ago.
“Dave likes to count the mangoes as we pick them every day,” said Mae. “I think it was about three years ago we had a season with 1,300 mangoes from one tree.”
Faced with a daunting amount of fruit, she tried all the typical things, like attempting to unload them on friends and colleagues, “and of course, you know, everybody has mangoes this time of year and it's like 'no, I don't need any mangoes.' ”
And so, like many of us, Mae and Dave filled up their freezer with as much as they could and let the rest go.
One day, while looking for mango recipes other than smoothies, they stumbled upon a gem. “It was this little pamphlet that was from a woman's club in Key West,” said Mae.
Over the years, the couple had collected a lot of cookbooks from yard sales, which they would venture out to most Saturday mornings. But this one was definitely special.
The pamphlet was from 1890 and included what turned out to be a delicious recipe for Caribbean mango chutney.
The couple immediately took to the idea.
“I grew up in Illinois and apples are big there,” explains Mae. Families would “put up” the apples and any other fruit and vegetable for the winter, preserving them so they can be enjoyed year-round in pickles, jams, jelly, marmalades—and, of course, chutneys. “To me, the mango is the apple of the South.”
So Mae and Dave started putting up their mangoes as chutney and sent jars of it off to family and friends for Christmas.
But Dave is the youngest of six brothers, so in a short period of time they were sending it off to siblings and nieces and nephews and friends of their family , and it got to be a lot.
“We found ourselves spending all this money on postage, mailing out these boxes of chutney every year,” said Mae.
So, for the past five years, she’s been selling their Key West Turn Of The Century Mango Chutney at Mae’s Mango Mondo booth at the Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood.
And with her favorite measuring cups, painted with cat faces inside, she showed us how to make a batch.
Watch the video below:
Ingredients include mango, bell pepper, red onion, red pepper flakes, apple cider vinegar, Jamaican style curry powder, ginger, unsweetened pineapple juice, raisins and currants.
Mae estimates she’s cut more than 5,000 mangoes over the years, and the number of hours doing so: “that would be scary to add up.”
She says sometimes she’ll come home from her day job as a microbiologist at 5 pm and then cut mangoes for the next six or seven hours.
Her recipe takes about an hour to chop, measure and cook everything. And as it all comes together, the colors are eye-popping: the purple of the onion, red from the bell pepper, orange of the mango.
But, of course, it’s the taste that matters. Here’s our verdict:
“I feel like I'm with the history and the culture of Florida,” said Mae as she makes chutney, “living close to the Caribbean, the influence of people that came to Key West from other places in the islands and I feel like they've they brought those flavors from those places.”
Mae now has a new problem: not enough mangoes.
During the season, she has to make sure she gets to her tree early, “before the mango thieves come out and walk their dogs in the morning and try to get our mangoes.”
Dog decoys, who knew!
Special thanks to Roshan's mom, Melody's abuela and Tim Padgett for graciously donating mangos to this project. They have been repaid in chutney.