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The “Mango Voodoo Chutney” Caper!

30 Mar

This is a guest post by Penny Leigh, owner operator of Penelope’s Island Emporium, founder of Roatan Renegade Rescue, and the lady who put to use the multitude of mangoes that would have gone to waste on our property.


How it all started…….

I always wanted to have my own line of food………Miss Penny’s “whatever.” I am a gourmet cook, ran a Chicago gourmet club for eleven years and really enjoy experimenting with new recipes. I always thought if I had not been such a busy corporate executive’s wife and mom, I would have given Martha Stewart a run for her money.

Moving to Roatan five years ago and opening Penelope’s Island Emporium kept me pretty busy in the beginning. I marveled at all the luscious tropical fruits growing abundantly, much of it falling to the ground. I remember paying $5.00 for a mango back in Chicago and it looked a lot worse than the discards here on the island!

I was browsing through my Caribbean Pantry Cookbook and found a scrumptious sounding recipe for Mango Chutney. My friends were coming to visit from Atlanta, it was mango season and this would be a new adventure they would surely enjoy. I contacted Dave and Genny to ask permission to pick a truckload of mangos. I had been by their property and had actually “heard” the mangos falling off the trees. Well, the Big Mango Adventure Day arrived. Mangos are sticky with juice and the jungle is hot, humid and buggy.

My compatriots were less than thrilled. I thought my friend, Francine had passed out somewhere deep in the jungle, when actually she had been rescued by Genny & was enjoying a cool drink and the shade of their deck. In hindsight Francine was the smarter of the bunch.

We loaded up the truck with hundreds of mangos and dragged them home, upstairs onto my deck. I couldn’t let them spoil in the plastic garbage bags outside, so set them up all over the deck. Then came the invasion of bats……………Uck Muck! Back in the bags they went, getting softer by the minute. One look at Francine’s face the following morning told me she would not be joining me in the cleaning, cutting and pit removal of this oozing mess I had created. My partner immediately announced he was allergic to mangoes, couldn’t even touch them…………..of course he was.

I got through it finally, took a whole day.

Next, the cooking. I had large canning pots, cauldrons going on all four gas burners. I had had other friends bring me down Cardamom seed pods and fresh vanilla beans, $6.00 a bean! Twenty-three ingredients went into the pots, simmering for two days and it was 90 degrees outside, so about 150 degrees in my kitchen and I don’t have air conditioning. Alas, there was no turning back.

I did not mention that, being the organized person I am, I had ordered ten dozen jelly canning jars from our biggest grocery market two months before jumping into Mango Land. Every week I was told they would most definitely be on the next boat. Well, long story short, the chutney was ready and I had no jars. My big chest freezer was destroyed in a flood and I was in full blown panic mode. Fortunately, my next door neighbor developer let me store the chutney in his empty condo freezer compartments, as it was only for a few days……

1 month later!
The canning jars have arrived…the size of mayonnaise jars.

2 months later!
The canning jars have arrived…quart size.

4 months later!
The canning jars have arrived…pint size.

Not jelly jars, but dammit close enough. Just in the nick of time as I got a call that people were moving into the condos and would not be pleased to find mysterious bags of unrecognizable glop in their freezers.

Thawed and reheated the mango chutney, boiled all the jars, filled them and hand labeled each jar. Ready to go on the shelf! Feeling quite accomplished, I then had to figure out how much to charge. Anyone running a business knows you must keep track of all your costs to determine your selling price of an item.

So: Gas for the truck, a half day of labor x 4 people, 200 gallon size ziplock bags, 12 hours of cleaning and peeling fruit, 2 days of cooking with propane, 120 canning jars, 23 ingredients, 120 fancy labels, raffia decoration of jars, slightly damaged friendship…priceless.

I figured that if I priced them at $60.00 a jar I might break even. At $10.00 a jar they sold briskly and I only have 2 jars left. Genny, I hope you enjoy your Mango Voodoo Chutney, because it will NEVER, EVER be made or sold at Penelope’s again!!!

Penny Leigh, owner operator of Penelope’s Island Emporium, founder of Roatan Renegade Rescue


Thanks for sharing your story Penny! Wednesday March 31, the Roatan Vortex Radio Show, on Roatan Radio the theme will be all about “Mangoes and Other Tropical Fruit Adventures on Roatan.”

9 Responses to “The “Mango Voodoo Chutney” Caper!”

  1. Karen McLean 30. Mar, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    Love your story Penny. I too love to cook and have over the years canned lots of jams, chutney’s etc.
    The labour is enormous, such a shame it’s not profitable. I’ll think of this story in mango season as the mangoes are dropping and banging the odd tin roof in the night at Sundancer

  2. Dave 30. Mar, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    Thought your story was right on, I had no idea you had
    so many talents and was such an interesting writer. Is
    there a novel down the road?

  3. Shirelee Brooks 31. Mar, 2010 at 5:23 am #

    Hi Penny i can sure use some mango jam on a good home bake bread, i remenber my mom use to make it when i was younger.

  4. Capt Randy Cudd 31. Mar, 2010 at 8:18 pm #

    Great story, I hope there is some left when I get there, but it sound
    like it will all be gone…drat!

  5. Faye in North Carolina 01. Apr, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    Hi Penny, Since you don’t plan to make and sell your mango chutney on Roatan again, would you be willing to share your recipe? I hope to be living there next year (on the mainland coast) during mango season and they’ll be dropping on our tin roof. I put up figs and Scuppernong grapes here in NC, but would love to have your mango recipe. If YES, thanks. If no, I’ll understand. We love mangos and yes, there are very expensive here in NC also!

  6. Penny Leigh 02. Apr, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    Hi Faye,
    You want the recipe? Well, have at it! I will be thrilled to buy it from YOU!! I would only ask that you bring me a little of your grape jam? In a past life, I had a huge garden, used to keep a salt shaker handy out there as lots of veggies and fruits never made it back to the house. Among other crops,I grew concord grapes, blackberries and raspberries. I don’t miss the cold Chicago winters, but I sure do miss my razzleberry pies and grape jam. Here is the basic recipe: ( I am one of “those” kinds of cooks who can’t help but tinker with the ingredients, tasting as I go & adding more of this & maybe some of that….” I prefer a hot, spicy chutney, but behaved myself & kept it mild for resale.
    I am sure your version will be just as delicious.
    Mango Voodoo Chutney
    10 Lbs. ripe or semi-ripe mangoes (about 10 large mangoes)
    5 cinnamon sticks (length of jar)
    25 whole black peppercorns
    25 whole cloves
    10 cardamom pods
    5 medium red onions, finely chopped (about 5 cups)
    5 red bell peppers, cored, seeded & finely chopped (about 5 cups)
    5 or more Scotch bonnet peppers, seeded and minced ( for hotter chutney, leave the seeds in)
    5 or more tablespoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
    10 or more minced fresh garlic cloves (Roatan garlic has no kick, so I always add lots more garlic to any recipe than is called for)
    5 cups dried currants or raisins
    Juice & grated zest of 5 oranges (about 3 cups juice & 3 teaspoons zest
    3 1/2 cups cider vinegar
    8 cups brown sugar
    3 cups white rum
    4 teaspoons salt
    10 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
    Peel the mangoes.Tie the cinnamon sticks, peppercorns cloves and cardamom in cheesecloth.
    Combine the mangoes, spice bundle, onion, bell pepper, Scotch bonnet, ginger, garlic, currants, orange juice and zest, vinegar, brown sugar, rum & salt in a large heavy canning pot, cooking over medium heat, loosely covered until the mango is very soft. The mixture should be thick & richly flavored in 30 to 60 minutes, depending on quantity. Be careful & stir often as it scorches easily. Stir fresh cilantro in last 5 minutes. Remove spice bundle & cool. I used the contents by adding a little bit to each jar.
    Taste the chutney for seasoning, adding more sugar or vinegar to taste. Perhaps add a splash more rum (I always figure one for the pot & one for the cook). The chutney should be a tangy sweet and sour.
    Transfer the chutney to sterile jars, filling each to within 1/8 inch of the top. tightly seal the jars with covered lids.Invert the jars for 10 minutes or until you hear the seal pop tight. Then reinvert.
    Unopened, the chutney will last for 12 months. Once opened, refrigerate & will be good for 2 months, but it won’t last that long, believe me. Fabulous as a marinade or a side condiment to fish, pork, chicken or beef. Good over cream cheese for an appetizer.
    Collapse & have a drink. You deserve it, besides tomorrow you get to sandblast your kitchen. Removing dried mango from walls, stove, ceiling and floors is similar to peeling cement.
    Let me know when I can stop by for my jar….:)

  7. Faye in North Carolina 03. Apr, 2010 at 6:31 am #

    Hi Penny, I am estatic! Now I can add to my list one more very important reason to be in Honduras during mango season next year. Maybe I’ll try your recipe, using peaches or apples grown here in NC. If that works, I’ll definitely bring a jar with me, along with a jar of Scuppernong grape jelly, using grapes from our 100 year old grapevine. I’ll think of you this summer when I’m in my garden eating my Better Boy tomatoes. We already have them planted. Thanks again for sharing. Faye in North Carolina.


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