Mrs Ball’s Chutney – the original recipe

Category: Side Dishes & Condiments
Style:  South African
Servings: 18 bottles


In the March 2004 edition of Sarie Magazine, writer André Le Roux uncovered the life story of Mrs. Ball and her secret chutney recipe.

Although Mrs. Ball’s chutney is considered to be a truly South African product, the recipe, in reality, comes from Canada.

The name chutney was adopted from a Hindi word in India, chatni, meaning ‘made from fresh fruit and spices”. In South Africa it’s mainly used as a marinade and a sauce to accompany meat, curries and bobotie.

In 1865 Mrs. Ball was born as Amelia Alice Elizabeth Adkins in Fort Jackson, East London, the same town where her Canadian parents were stranded in 1852 on their way to Australia.

According to her father, Henry James Adkins, captain of the SS Quanza, and his wife, Sarah Spalding, left the coastal town, Nova Scotia in Canada for Australia. Although the boat was lost off the coast of East London, fortunately for future generations of South Africans, the captain, his wife and her chutney recipe survived.

It was here that their daughter, Amelia Adkins, was born thirteen years later. She married Herbert Saddleton Ball in Fort Jackson, and was thereafter known as Mrs. Ball.

Both Mrs. Ball and her sister, Florence (known as Aunt Flo) received the secret chutney recipe from their mother, who in turn got it from her mother. Aunt Flo also made the exact same chutney recipe – which she sold as Mrs. Adkins’ Chutney – the only difference being that almost no one bought it.

Edward Thomas Adkins Ball, Mrs. Ball’s grandson, explained to Sarie magazine that the difference in the recipes might have been in the sugar.

Mrs. Ball started making the chutney after she moved to Johannesburg with her husband and seven children. Her friends and family loved it so much that the business started blossoming on its own. The demand increased; Mrs Ball cooked and her husband bottled.

Home Industries started selling her chutney and by 1918 she sold about 24 bottles a day, which in the years to come grew to 8 000 bottles a day.

In 1921 the Ball family moved to Cape Town. After living in Kalk Bay and Diepriver they settled in Plumstead (where her husband took over the chutney cooking).

He died in 1935 and she moved to Fish Hoek where she continued to make chutney in her backyard with the help of her grandson, “Uncle Bob”. The business was later moved to Woodstock with twelve new workers.

In 1957/’58 Mrs Ball’s chutney was exported to England for the first time .

In the early seventies, Brooke Bond Oxo bought over the business, which was later sold to Unifoods. Still owned by them today, Mrs. Ball’s chutney is being made in Johannesburg and exported to Germany, Britain, New Zealand and Australia.

Mrs. Ball died on 20 November 1962 at the age of 97. Uncle Bob believes she would have lived to see 100 if she wasn’t attacked a few years earlier. Apparently three youths assaulted her for a small purse of money while she was sitting on the stoep of her house in Fish Hoek. They threw her to the ground, and, unable to get up by herself, she was found lying there sometime later.

She could not be buried next to her husband in Plumstead due to rising water levels. Instead she was buried in Muizenberg, where her grave can still be visited today.

612 g dried peaches
238 g dried apricots
3 litres brown wine vinegar
2 1/2 kg white sugar
500 g onions
120 g salt
75 g cayenne pepper
1 to 2 litres of brown wine vinegar for soaking
About 2 litres of brown wine vinegar for mixing

The fruit should be left in the soaking vinegar overnight, then cooked in the same vinegar until soft. Drain. Put the fruit through a mill. Add the sugar (dissolved) and onions (minced) and cook in a pot with the brown wine vinegar. The amount of vinegar depends on the consistency: it should not be too runny or too thick, but have the same consistency as the end product you find in the bottle. Add spices and cook for one to two hours. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent burning. Sterlise your bottles and spoon in the mixture. That’s it – you’ve got Mrs Ball’s Chutney.

To make the chutney hot, add 75 g chopped chillies.

To make peach chutney, omit the apricots and use 850 g dried peaches instead.



One response to “Mrs Ball’s Chutney – the original recipe


    May 27, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    I used to visit my widowed aunt Mrs Florence Perks who made Mrs Balls chutney at her farm at Fort Jackson. Regularly the ox wagon would go to the local railway station to send the chutney off to the businesses. I have read information on line regarding the chutney and it does note compute with what I know about it there is obviously information available that I am unaware of ?


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